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COUNCIL MEETING 08/08/16 (Tax Rates, Cultural Corner Contract, Housing Occupation Code, Shooting Range)

Neighbors Speak Out Against Shooting Range Idea
By Catherine Stortz Ripley 
August 12, 2016

A group of citizens who reside in southwest Chillicothe presented a petition to Chillicothe City Council members Monday evening stating opposition to the idea of having a firing range near their homes. The city has been discussing for several months the creation of a firing range that would be used by the Chillicothe Police Department for training purposes. The proposed site is along Green Street, near where the city's fire training facility is located. Early discussions by the city involved the Missouri National Guard, which had agreed to partner with the city by providing equipment and personnel to construct the range. The city conducted a public in July as a necessary component of the Guard's involvement. No decisions have been made regarding the shooting range and city officials told those in attendance at Monday's meeting that the council can stop advancement of the project at any time. Several individuals were present at last month's public hearing to express support of the project; however, different individuals attended the council meeting Monday night to express opposition to the plan. Discussion of the firing range was not on the agenda but was part of the public comment period which followed the regular council meeting. Jim Barnes, who resides on Cowgill Street, told the council that he was speaking on behalf of those opposed to the firing range. He stated that he has nothing against the fire department, police department or the National Guard but was disappointed that the city did not notify residents in the area about the city's consideration of a firing range in that location. He suggested that the city look somewhere other than near residential housing for constructing a firing range. "It doesn't have to be in people's front yards," Barnes told the council. He noted that the land that is being considered for the firing range was given by Churchill's for a YMCA or recreational purposes. The petition distributed to the council members included signatures of more than 140 people stating they were against the firing range in that location and asked the council to cancel plans for a firing range there. The petition in opposition stated that a gun range would create a public nuisance and negatively impact property values; would create noise from guns that would scare children and pets and, in general, disturb the peace and quiet. The petition stated that a gun range would be a threat and/or hazard to the general health and safety of the community. It was also noted in the petition that there are two shooting ranges available for city use, one through the Department of Corrections and the other being the existing city shooting range near the city dump. Rick Wood, a resident of Samuel Street, said that he enjoys shooting sports and uses the Department of Conservation's shooting range frequently. "The only concern I have is about noise," Wood said. "We have a nice, peaceful neighborhood. The fire training facility is not a problem. I ask for your consideration in pondering this matter." Ralph Holland, another resident of Samuel Street, said that the proposed gun range would be 600 or 700 feet from his front door. He stated that there are other places the shooting range could be placed and that his neighborhood should not be considered. The council members thanked those in attendance for expressing their opinions. Third Ward Councilman Tom Douglas said that he and 2nd Ward Councilman Wayne Cunningham also had concerns regarding noise. "They have to prove to us that they will have very little noise before we will approve this," Douglas stated of himself and Cunningham. "We will not vote for something if they don't show us they can suppress the noise... I wouldn't want a firing range in my front year either."

City Considers Ways to Ensure Proper Condition of Rental Housing
August 12, 2016

The city of Chillicothe is reviewing ways to ensure that all rental housing units meet minimum living standards and on Monday evening officials discussed a proposal establishing housing occupation code inspections and fees for such inspections. Such an ordinance would address rental property houses, apartments and rooms for rent that have health and welfare issues, such as concerns about utilities, sewage, proper ventilation, air conditioning, hot water, and more, according to City Administrator Ike Holland. The discussion took place during the council's regular meeting Monday evening at City Hall. Councilman-at-Large David Moore, who owns rental properties, stated that passing such an ordinance is a step in the right direction. "When we hear something like this, we think that it is going to be intrusive and cause problems for us...," Moore said. "For the most part, we don't have any teeth in being able to go after property owners to correct deficiencies in their properties. There are a lot and they are getting bad, bad... Some people are living in some of them and that is the issue we have to address." He said he thought the majority of landlords try to correct problems with their property, but there are some properties that fall short of minimum living standards. The need for the ordinance is to address the few persistent offenders, the council members stated. Chillicothe Codes Inspector Chuck Greever said that the city is unable to "pick and choose" which rental units to inspect but noted that some are in poor condition. "Most people don't want to live in a house without water and lights and sewer; and we have some people living in rentals without water and light, or floors," he said. Third Ward Councilman Tom Douglas said that there are people living in houses that should have been torn down years ago. Several individuals who own rental property were at Monday night's meeting and spoke out in opposition of an ordinance that they say is unnecessary for the majority of property owners, costly and time consuming. "My concern over this is that there are a handful of people that seem to be the problem," Roger Bernskoetter said. "I don't understand why we would have to be involved to pay for inspections when our properties are up to code. It looks to me to be a way for the city to throw some extra intrusive ordinance on the rest of us who are doing what we're supposed to do to take care of a handful." Tom Chapman, who also owns rental units, expressed concerns over the proposed ordinance. He noted that there are approximately 1,400 rental spaces in Chillicothe and that the average length of stay for most tenants is between 8 and 10 months. "You would have a lot of inspections," Chapman said. "How long will it take to do these inspections and paperwork? How long will it take for the landlords to wait for inspections if there is a problem? How long will it take for approval and re-inspection?" "I think all the people here in the room don't want to have lousy property," Chapman said. "I think most of the people here have good properties. My concern is if you create this process and it's cumbersome, and it slows it down. We're concerned it's going to create quite a lot of bureaucracy and take a lot of time." Councilman Moore stated that the city needs an ordinance that would give the city authority to demand an inspection if warranted. "If you know you have someone who is maintaining their property, there's no sense in doing it," Moore said. "But, we need something in place to allow us to do it if we need to do it."

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The city of Chillicothe will have a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Monday, August 8, in the council chambers at City Hall to consider an ordinance setting the 2016 tax rates. The proposed tax rates have been determined by computations from the state auditor's office and are in compliance with state statutes, according to City Auditor Theresa Kelly. The proposed rates show a slight increase over last year's rates. The new rates, if approved, will increase the city property tax revenues by approximately $1,508, the auditor stated. The proposed general tax levy calls for real and personal property tax to be set at $0.6915 per $100 assessed valuation; and for the parks tax levy for real and personal property to be $0.1944 per $100 assessed valuation.

Several items are the agenda. City Administrator Ike Holland is scheduled to lead discussion and present a service contract with the Cultural Corner and Art Guild & Gallery. The ordinance states that Cultural Corner is a nonprofit corporation organized and existing in Chillicothe with a mission to educate, encourage and inspire the community in development of art by providing a dynamic and supportive venue for exhibits, programs to bring artists together and workshops and instruction which foster the creative process. The contract states that Cultural Corner will participate in at least 13 Main Street Chillicothe events within the next year, acquire adequate funding for its participation in such events, and make its participation in these events reasonably accessible to all members of the public on a nondiscriminatory equal opportunity basis. In exchange, the city agrees to pay Cultural Corner as a reimbursement for a part of the costs for its participation in these public activities the sum of $3,000, payable on or before Sept. 30, 2016.

In other business, the administrator will also discuss ordinances that would establish housing occupation code inspections and fees for such inspections. Other items on tonight's agenda include Mayor Chuck Haney making an appointment recommendation to the city's Planning and Zoning Board; discussion about the placement of a Main Street parklet as presented by Main Street Chillicothe; and consideration of an ordinance accepting a bid for the purchase of 500 Grade 3 railroad ties.

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