The city’s potential recourse for a long-running homeowner complaint was discussed at Tuesday’s Clinton City Council Internal Operations Committee meeting. The committee’s decision to stay out of the situation and let the homeowner’s legal team pursue other options could end the city’s involvement in a case that has dogged the Clinton city attorney’s office for more than five years.
The property at 836 14th Ave. South was purchased following a rehabilitation project in 2005. Since moving in, the homeowner has made numerous complaints about the quality of the work done on the house, despite it being passed by city inspectors. Mike Harmon, Building and Neighborhood Services director, said the building code has changed drastically since that time and that things the city would label as unacceptable now may not have been in 2005.
“This is the homeowner coming to the city because they can’t get anywhere with the contractor,” City Attorney Jeff Farwell said. He added that any involvement the city may have from this point on is from a moral standpoint, rather than a legal one.
Farwell said the city’s obligation to the homeowner ended one year following completion, and that any potential liability lies with the contractor who completed the work. Farwell said the contractor in question has proven to be evasive and is no longer considered as an option for city construction projects.
At-Large Council member Jennifer Graf said she believed the city should step out of the situation. The homeowner has obtained legal counsel and is capable of pursuing action without the city’s involvement, she said. At-Large Council member Mark Vulich agreed.
“If we deal with this, we’re opening up a can of worms,” he said, later adding, “we could spend all our time handling claims.”
Vulich said establishing such a precedent would be detrimental to the city. Graf added the city can ill afford to involve itself in additional legal matters.
“I think we have enough on our plate right now, litigation wise,” Graf said.
The committee declined further action. Farwell said he will contact the homeowner with the committee’s decision.
In other action, the committee:
• Discussed the expense reports for the marina restaurant.
Vulich said that when it comes to evaluating the city’s involvement with the restaurant, it is important to consider its obligations per the lease agreement with the operator. The city is responsible for numerous maintenance issues, including snow removal. With property taxes included, the restaurant may not be especially lucrative for the city.
“Just to be able to look at it as a wash would be a plus,” Graf said.
City Administrator Jeff Horne said it would be difficult to completely grasp the financial situation of the restaurant until December, when the numbers for the first full year of operations would be in. Vulich added that if the city is not completely satisfied with the agreement at that time, the lease can be reviewed after the third year of operation.
Horne said he will obtain reports detailing the first six months of operation for the August committee meeting.