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Bonne Terre to have election in April

BONNE TERRE — The Bonne Terre City Council voted Tuesday night to have an election in April.

On April 13, voters from Bonne Terre will decide whether to authorize the city to impose a semi-annual fee of $200 to owners of vacant property characterized with housing code violations.

Mayor Sue Wilke said they have been exploring this option for several months. The idea is to encourage owners to improve or tear down properties that are dangerous or considered to be eyesores to their neighbors.

Wilke said they are not after people living in houses. According to state statute, the residential structure has to be vacant for more than six months before a fee could be imposed.

Wilke said she can not imagine anyone being against this — except the few who own the property. About 25 residential structures could be affected if voters approved the issue. The structures are deteriorating but not to the point where they could be condemned by the city.

Members of the council had originally thought that the ordinance covered commercial buildings. However, the ordinance only applies to vacant residential structures and multiple dwelling units.

“Is there any ordinance that covers commercial property?” Councilwoman Janet Barton asked.

City Manager Larry Hughes said there were none that he knew of.

The city had applied for a demolition grant in March but the city was not awarded it. The grant would have provided financial assistance to owners of dilapidated buildings — commercial and residential — to tear the buildings down.

Hughes estimated it costs more than $4,000 just to demolish a home. He said the grant would have been a way for owners to get their property cleaned up so they could sell it.

The city could apply for the grant again.

In other matters, the council renewed a liquor by the drink license for Hard Rack, but tabled the same kind of request for Club 67.

Police Chief Fred Mallow said Club 67 creates “quite a mess” on Thursday nights. He indicated there may be some problems that the owner is not reporting.

Members of the council hope to meet with the owner during their monthly work session Nov. 24. The license expires at the beginning of December.

Wilke indicated they were seriously considering not renewing the license.

Both clubs had their license renewed in the summer but the license was only renewed for a probationary period of six months. With the recent renewal, Hard Rack was taken off of the probation.

In another matter, the council approved health insurance benefits for next year. Members approved the type of coverage they discussed in a work session last month. Kathy Stegall, a member of the council, recused herself from the vote since her family is covered by the city health insurance.

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