SUNBURY — A former Sunbury councilman said he wants the city to approve a new commercial property ordinance because it will protect residents, not hurt them.
The commercial properties ordinance, passed last year when Chris Reis was on city council, would require all commercial properties to be inspected by Northeast Inspection Consultants (NEIC), of Childs, for a fee of $200 per inspection every three years.
NEIC is a state-licensed inspection agency for commercial properties. Prior to the new ordinance, the city was not allowed to inspect commercial properties because special training is required by law. NEIC serves Danville, Shamokin, Point Township, Northumberland and Sunbury.
Council members last week froze the ordinance after a letter was sent to all commercial landlords by City Administrator Derrick Backer advising landlords of the changes, prompting several landlords to show up at the council meeting. council to voice their concerns.
Reis said when he began serving on council, the ordinance was identified as necessary due to the deteriorating condition of commercial properties across the city without a proper inspection process.
“There are many cases right now of properties that are in dire straits that, had regular inspections taken place, could have been saved and rehabilitated, including city and county owned properties,” Reis said. . “I can understand anyone arguing or getting upset about the fee for this because honestly no one likes extra costs for things, myself included, but arguing the need for this order doesn’t doesn’t make sense to me, and I hope the new mayor and council will figure out a way to move this process forward sooner rather than later.
Earlier this week, Northumberland County Commissioner Kym Best sent a ‘My Turn’ in The Daily Item opposing the order.
“The timing of this costly effort is wrong,” Best wrote. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, many local businesses have been forced to close or close permanently. Any extra fees forced construction costs or other unforeseen challenges could spell the end for those left behind.
Best said the costs are hidden because the private company hired doesn’t have to answer to taxpayers. Best said she will be attending the city council’s next meeting on Feb. 14.
This letter was countered by city attorney Joel Wiest.
“The registration fee is already known to be $200 payable to the state-licensed inspector, with $25 going to the city for administrative costs,” Wiest wrote.
“This $200 fee, payable once every three years, is certainly not going to impede anyone’s commercial endeavors on a larger scale than it will ensure the safety of users of these commercial properties.” That would seem a fair compromise. With respect to “forced construction costs”, if a building requires construction in order to meet regulations promulgated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the complaints of the previous author should be directed to the legislature thereof, not to the city council, or maybe to the building. owner. Finally, the “unforeseen challenges” being only a hollow anomaly, of which I am unaware of the direction, I cannot answer this assertion.
Wiest recommended that the ordinance be frozen and no inspections take place for at least 60 days until the city can schedule a public meeting with businesses and commercial owners to discuss the issues.
Councilor Jim Eister explained that existing businesses would not be required to follow the same measures as new builds, but he agreed the ordinance needed to be reviewed and business owners should have a say.
20 percent collected
According to Danville Borough Director Shannon Berkey, “NEIC receives 20% of the amount collected based on the Borough’s fee schedule.”
They can do residential and commercial inspections, but for the Borough of Danville, most of it is commercial because we do most of the residential inspections with in-house staff.
NEIC also serves Shamokin, Northumberland and Point Township, according to its website.
Backer said the order was necessary.
“The intended outcome of this ordinance is to ensure our commercial properties in the city are safe and updated to ensure they do not turn into derelict properties,” he said. “This is one of many tools that will not only help beautify the city, but also keep its residents and visitors safe in and around these buildings.”
Mayor Josh Brosious agreed with the advice and said he also wanted to speak to business owners and get more input. Brosious said the ordinance was put in place to protect residents and clean up degraded properties. Brosious said he, Wiest and the rest of the city council will meet with NEIC officials to discuss in detail what is expected of the company and how the company can help homeowners.