WILKES-BARRE — Councilwoman Maureen Lavelle on Tuesday alleged that the owner of a Spring Street home does not live in it as he claims to and is renting it out without a rental inspection or occupancy permit.
Lavelle also complained at a council work session that the house had been in disrepair for four years until she raised concerns about it. She said plumbing and electrical work was recently done, but it wasn’t inspected until after the walls and ceiling were installed.
She said someone was allowed to move into the house on Nov. 12 without an occupancy permit and without a rental inspection, and a city inspector didn’t go to the house until Dec. 19. She said the owner should have been fined but never was.
City Administrator Marie McCormick said it would be difficult to prove that the owner does not live there.
Lavelle disagreed, saying the owner’s name was not on the utilities.
McCormick said situations exist in which an owner’s name is not on a utility when he or she cohabits with another person.
Lavelle said she would check with utility companies on that. “I think there are too many times we’re allowing fines not to be paid. The city needs income, so fine the people that need to be fined,” she said.
City Director of Operations Butch Frati said the city inspector does a good job with the limited resources the city has. He said the way in which laws are written make it hard to enforce them, but he would meet with the inspector and find a resolution.
In other business, council in advance of its meeting on Thursday, reviewed resolutions to:
• approve easement agreements that will allow the Sherman Hills apartment complex officials to install fencing across city property. The owners of the crime-plagued complex submitted a plan to the city planning commission to improve safety at the complex, and council will vote on approving easements needed to enact the plan.
• award a five-year contract to ParenteBeard of Wilkes-Barre to perform the city audits for 2013 through 2017 at a cost of $62,000 the first two years, $64,000 the second two years and $66,000 the final year.
• purchase a new 2014 wheel loader for $130,000 and a new 2013 loader backhoe for $70,750, which are state-negotiated prices. The money would come from the city’s share of gasoline tax revenue (liquid fuels) and any costs not covered by that fund would come from the general fund.
• sell the 2013 delinquent real estate tax claims in an estimated amount of $900,000 to the Wilkes-Barre Finance Authority and to retain Municipal Revenue Services Inc. to facilitate the sale. The city would have the option to renew the agreement for the 2014 and 2015 tax years.
• support the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, which would delay the implementation of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Law, which would cause most flood insurance rates to increase 20 percent to 25 percent annually.
• amend council rules to require meeting participants and attendees to silence or turn off cell phones while at council meetings.
• support the Wyoming Valley Bowling Association hosting the Pennsylvania State Men’s Open Bowling Tournament in Wilkes-Barre.
• enter a three-year agreement with Drain-Tech Inc. for the 2014 Emergency Storm and Sanitary Sewer Cleaning and Unclogging Contract with a fourth year option.
• enter a three-year agreement with Franchelli Enterprises Inc. and Stell Enterprises Inc. for Emergency Services Sewer and Storm System Repair Contract for 2014 with a fourth year option.