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Baldwin City to work with owners of unsafe electrical meters

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April 7, 2015

The Baldwin City Electrical Department is asking property owners to replace outdated or unsafe electrical metering cans, fix dangerous exterior wiring or face a cut-off of service.

Lead linesman Chris Croucher told the Baldwin City Council on Monday the electrical department has identified four customers whose buildings still have outdated 30-amp meter cans, which can be overloaded fire hazards in homes using 200 amps of electricity. In addition, the department has found instances of badly mounted meters or unsafe wiring from the meter to the homeowner’s breaker control box or badly insulated service cable leading to the home.

The electrical department will enforce code that calls for power to be cut off to properties with problems that create a danger to property and life, Croucher said.

The city is, however, extending a helping hand to affected customers.

Property owners with problems will be given 90 days to make corrections, Croucher said. They will also be referred to local licensed electricians who are working with the city in the program. An interest-free loan of up to $1,500 will be available to those needing to make upgrades, he said. The loans will be paid off through monthly installments added to utility bills. Local contractors working with the city in the program have estimated most of the identified problems would cost from $200 to $600 to correct, he said.

To further aid homeowners, the city would provide updated meter cans at its cost of $45 and waive city inspection fees on the work done to correct problems, Croucher said.

In other business, the council approved a second reading of an ordinance that makes littering a municipal offense with none of the drama or discussion that accompanied the first reading of the measure two weeks earlier.

At the earlier meeting, Steve Bauer told the council the ordinance stemmed from a disagreement between a contract mower of his rental properties and the contract mower of City Administrator Chris Lowe. He further argued the language in the ordinance making it an offense to leave lawn clippings or leaves on sidewalks or streets was too broad.

Bauer, who was at the meeting as a candidate running for the council, didn’t speak against the ordinance Monday. His earlier comments were recalled, however, as council members explained the ordinance originated from a request from Baldwin City Police Chief Greg Neis so that his officers could issue tickets for littering that would be handled by the city’s municipal court rather than the district court in Lawrence. Councilwoman Kathy Gerstner said the $100 fine for littering was the maximum that could be imposed and that the municipal judge and city prosecutor would consider circumstances and number of past offenses in assessing a fine.

The council also approved a resolution finding a parked, unassembled double-wide mobile home at 217 Dearborn St. a nuisance and giving the property owner, Brent Ojanguren, 10 days to remove the double-wide before the city takes action.

The double-wide has been on the property since Feb. 15 with no building permit. Ojanguren was issued a citation that day and failed to appear at his municipal court date of March 12 because of family reasons.

In an appeal to the council, Ojanguren said he had attempted unsuccessfully to find another place outside the city limits to park the double-wide until he could get a permit from the city to pour a foundation for the mobile home. He did have a certified design for the foundation, he said.

Although not unsympathetic to Ojanguren’s plight, council members said Ojanguren’s inaction in securing the building permit made them leery the mobile home could sit on the property untouched for a lengthy time if they didn’t approve the resolution. They explained they had little choice but to find the mobile home a nuisance in the current situation before approving the resolution 4-0.

Lowe said the city would raze the double-wide rather than try to find a new owner for it or relocate it should Oranguren not abate the nuisance in the 10-day timeframe.

In other business, the council:

Originally published at: http://www.baldwincity.com/news/2015/apr/07/baldwin-city-work-owners-unsafe-electrical-meters/