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Merrillville trims rental inspection fee

Updated: March 28, 2013 6:48AM



MERRILLVILLE — The Town Council on Tuesday approved an amended ordinance regulating rental housing, cutting the fee in half to $50 and removing the provision that stipulates a portion of the funds be used for public safety.

The amendment was necessary when the town discovered state statute does not allow the fee to be used to help fund the police department.

Town Attorney John Bushemi said with that provision out of the ordinance, it was determined $50 per rental unit is sufficient.

The ordinance originally called for a $100 per year rental fee, per housing unit.

The amended ordinance states that the money collected from the fund would be used solely for all costs related to the administration of the program. Money in the fund should not revert to the general fund or any other town fund.

Zoning administrator Dorinda Gregor said $3,800 had been collected from apartment complexes, two-unit and four-unit buildings. She said those who paid for this year will not have to pay again until September 2014, for the year 2015.

Bushemi said no money has been spent so far from this fund.

The vote was a unanimous 5-0. Councilmen Tom Goralczyk, D-3rd, and Ron Widing, D-7th, were absent. Councilman Richard Hardaway, D-2nd, changed his vote from last summer, when he voted against the fee.

“I compliment the council for making the adjustment. I only voted against this last time because I thought the fee should be $50,” Hardaway said.

Both Widing and Hardaway said last summer they felt the fee would drive away renters and landlords.

Hardaway asked Bushemi if the amended ordinance would conflict with House Bill 1313. Bushemi said it would not because the bill, with has not passed the Senate yet, would prohibit any community that doesn’t have a rental ordinance already from adopting one.

“It won’t affect Merrillville because you adopted the ordinance last year,” Bushemi said.

In addition to a desire to raise funds for the police department, the regulation and inspection ordinance was passed to protect residents from living in deplorable conditions.

The ordinance requires rental units to comply with the state’s building code and for units to be inspected by the town’s building inspector if a complaint is made by a tenant.

In other matters, the council made July 5 an additional holiday for town employees and agreed to switch the current full-time administrative secretary position to part-time with a salary of $14.28 per hour. The secretary change will be made when the current secretary to town administrator Howard Fink retires.



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