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Letters to The Platteville Journal for May 15
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City code enforcement

In 2011 a man claiming to be the city building inspector came to my business in the afternoon. He was dressed in blue jeans and a T-shirt and did not have any proper ID or offer me any other form of identification that he worked for the City of Platteville. He wanted information regarding two cars and a boat located on my property. I removed the boat and vehicles in September 2011. He did not discuss the roof replacement, or painting nor did he refer to any weeds on the property.

On April 30, 2012, somebody stopped by the business and handed me an envelope addressed to the Browning Family Partnership. … The city had confused the two properties in the January 2012 letter to the Partnership . From what we could tell, I needed to paint my building, removed the boat and move the cars. The vehicles and boat were removed in early September 2012. I did not re-roof my business since the roof does not leak.

I received a call from Ric Riniker on the morning of Sept. 17, 2012. He stated he wanted to speak to me about my property. I told him I was very busy right now as I had 2 or 3 people in my office and it would be better if I came to city hall to talk to him. He asked me if I wanted to call him back and I said yes. I work alone in my shop and was not able to call him back until Friday of that week and City Hall was closed. The following Monday, Sept. 24, while I was opening the mail I discovered three citations from the Platteville Police Department dated Sept. 11, 12 and 13 for a total of $790.50.

If you receive a speeding ticket, I do not think you would appreciate the officer writing you a ticket for next couple of days because he feels like it, without giving you a chance to go to court or give you due process.

I started to review the city codes and discovered that according to City Code Chapter 23 and the International Property Maintenance code Section 107. 2, all citizens of Platteville that had their private property or business inspected by the Building Inspector must — I repeat must — be sent a certified or first class letter informing the property owner of a description of the city code violation, why it was issued, be given a reasonable time to make the repairs, inform the owner of the right to appeal the Building Inspector’s evaluation of the property to the Board of Appeals, and also inform the owner that the city has the right to file a lien against their property.

The property owner cannot sell the property or transfer the property until the maintenance violations are addressed. Here is another thing to consider If a person goes to a lender to buy a house in this town and is at the top of his borrowing capacity and the city building inspector comes around and orders him to paint or re-roof or tear down an outbuilding. Where does he or she get the money? Will the lender make the loan in the first place?

My family and I requested under the Open Records Law and Freedom of Information Act all the communications, letters, emails, citations, etc. from City of Platteville employees, council persons and their staff regarding any and all maintenance issues. When getting ready to go to court, we requested the letters and were told we had to pay 25 cents a copy. Many of the copies were duplicated many times adding to our additional expenses.

I have an email stating that there are a number of complaints about my property. But when we asked to see these complaints, we received a letter stating there are no such complaints. I had 10 employees at one time in my shop, and if this error would have happened in my business I would have fired someone.

We discovered that Resolution 11–13 dated June 14, 2011, signed by the former Common Council president, states that the City Manager as directed by the Common Council should encourage neighbors to turn in neighbors regarding property maintenance code violations. We also discovered that 84 people received maintenance violations letters and many more people received letters regarding weeds. Remember last year, we had a drought.

Eighty-four people received letters similar to the one I received. Eighty-four people were not told that they have the right to appeal these violations. Eighty-four people last year did not receive due process of law from this city. In addition, there was no consideration for these families’ financial situation, illness or even if they are disabled.

We also discovered that some people were given special consideration by the city manager while others were not. In addition, the majority of people who received citations in 2012 were over 64 years old. How many roofs were replaced by churches or houses painted by volunteers? How would you feel if you had to beg your church to paint your house because you were ordered to do so?

In all of the letters sent to taxpayers in the City of Platteville there is no consideration for a family member who is sick or disabled. Each letter clearly states that “I order you to,” etc., etc.

Another point of interest is that only one of the Kallembach houses was cited for maintenance issues. Is it possible that the city considered this their properties before the court ordered sale? Or are the building inspector and the city manager in need of eyeglasses. This is just a thought. Now I know why all the painters in town were busy last summer when 84 people were also told to paint their homes.

If the city manager has the time to ride around town looking for maintenance code violators, then he does not need an assistant. His time should be better spent trying to attract new business in the town. For example, why hasn’t the Dunkin Donuts been built? What is the delay — is our city manager too busy looking for weeds than finding out why it hasn’t been built?

Our family owns a house at 245 E. Mineral St. There is a creek that runs along the property. Every year more of our land is eroded away by the creek. For 30 years, we have asked the city to take care of the erosion problem and every year the City promises to do something. As of this date nothing has been done.

I have pictures of city properties taken last July that are in need of mowing. The city does not follow their own codes, but every day citizens receive citations without due process.

I have had no problems with the City of Platteville until UW–Platteville wanted to buy my property. The next thing I knew was that the former Common Council president stated the amount of money I wanted for the property was ridiculous.

I have been a Platteville firefighter for 45 years, and Boy Scout leader for 30 years. I have donated vehicles to UWP, and the Chicago Bears (which have come back with coffee stains and one with over $500 worth of damage). I have painted school buses for churches and helped buy school buses for schools and donated heavily to the Platteville High School and Middle School. I have been in business in Platteville for the past 45 years. I believe that actions means more than words when you are seeking employers and job creators to come to Platteville.

It would be in the best interest of the city to remove the International Property Maintenance Code from the city code. I do not understand why Platteville adopted a code used by European countries. I also believe that we should stop sending letters to the taxpayers of Platteville that begin with “You are hereby ordered to.”

Things need to change and the people of Platteville have given the new Common Council for 2013, a mandate to make those changes.

It is my recommendation that the City of Platteville seek a new building inspector who applies the laws to all residents, using due process of the law and not just as instructed by his boss.

Under oath in court the building inspector stated “he could enter anyone’s property, any time he wanted to,” so to the women of Platteville, please remember to smile at all times. You never know when the city building inspector is going to inspect your property. I think this is a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, unless you are a taxpayer in the City of Platteville.

It is my recommendation that the City of Platteville look to hire a city manager that will look at the best interests of the city and not just for those who are politically connected or are wealthy enough to make donations in order to have their agenda addressed first.

I ask you to please instruct the City Attorney to drop all charges against me and the rest of the citizens of Platteville that received citations in 2012. No one has received due process or were given the right to appeal the maintenance violations.

Darrel Browning
Browning Motor Service
785 S. Chestnut St., Platteville

Browning read this letter at Tuesday’s Platteville Common Council meeting.

The Platteville Journal will print most letters to the editor, regardless of the opinion presented. The Journal reserves the right to edit material that is libelous or otherwise offensive to community standards and to shorten letters the Journal feels are excessively long. All letters must be signed and the signature must appear on the printed letter, along with a contact number or email for verification. Some submitted letters may not be published due to space constraints. “Thank you” letters will not be printed. All letters and columns represent the views of the writers and not necessarily the views of The Platteville Journal.