EAST TAWAS – A group of local landlords gathered at the East Tawas City Council meeting on July 1 to express their concerns over the city’s recent decision to adopt the International Property Maintenance Code. 

The consensus opinion of the property owners was that they were being unfairly targeted by the ordinance.

Ken DeLage was first to address the council during the public comments section of the meeting. DeLage lamented that his property taxes were “already too much,” and that the additional fees landlords would be assessed by the new ordinance would be an unreasonable burden. He added that the new building standards were so severe that even new construction projects couldn’t pass. “None of our homes will pass,” DeLage said.

Another rental property owner, Dennis Frank, voiced his concerns and objected to the ordinance, citing “unique financial burdens” placed on his tenants. Frank said that some of his renters were low wage earners who can’t afford any additional expenses that would likely result from this measure. He noted that landlords often end up paying for utilities after tenants leave for financial considerations. Frank said that he felt the council had gone “overboard” in passing this ordinance, and requested that they “take a step back.”

East Tawas resident Joe Cano suggested that council was “over-governing.” Cano considers the inspections of rental properties under the new code to be an “invasion of privacy,” and said that the code was “too much of a step.” Cano added that rental property owners were being singled out in this matter and that every citizen, not just landlords, should be held to the same standards.

Jim Moran reminded the council that rental property owners make sure that the homes are livable after a renter leaves. Sandy DeLage also commented, “Not all landlords are slumlords.”

East Tawas City Manager Brent Barringer invited the rental property owners to attend and participate in a focus group meeting that was held July 9 at 1:30 p.m. in the East Tawas Community Center. Later in the meeting, Barringer stated that the city was not targeting landlords, but needs to know how many rental properties are located in the city. 

Cano, a former city councilman, who remained at the meeting after the public comment segment was completed, reiterated his opinion that this was an overreach, noting that most of the landlords were retirees who invested in income properties to supplement their pensions.

Councilman Craig McMurray said that “more input now is better,” and expressed his appreciation for the feedback. Councilwoman Lisa Bolen stated that she was “worried about landlords who weren’t here.” Councilwoman Blinda Baker agreed, saying that the city also needs to protect renters. Councilman Dave Leslie suggested that all involved should calm down, as “the rest of the story is not completed yet.”

Tawas Police Authority (TPA) Chief Mark Ferguson informed the council that a conditional offer of employment has been extended to a candidate for the open police officer position in his department, pending the results of a psychological examination.

In other matters before the council:

• A request from the Sunrise Solstice Art and Music Festival to close Newman Street from Bay to State and Westover streets between the rear lot entrances on each side of Newman Street on June 13, 2020 from 3 to 11 p.m. was unanimously approved by the council.

• Council also approved without dissent a request from the Knights of Columbus to hold their semi-annual Tootsie Roll Drive on July 12 and 13.

• The city’s third-quarter budget was amended by a 7-0 vote. The amendment reflects increases in attorney and survey expenses and an adjustment to the TIFA Refunding Bond Fund.

• Council unanimously approved authorizing Barringer to cast a vote on behalf of the city for members of the Michigan Municipal League’s Workers’ Compensation Fund Board of Trustees.

• On the recommendation of the city’s auditor, council approved by a 7-0 vote a measure to uncommit $511,780.27 from the committed to capital equipment purchases account and transfer those funds to the unassigned fund balance account in order to prepay for the new fire truck.

• A request for an extension of the DNR Boat Launch lease agreement was considered by council. By a vote of 7-0, Barringer was authorized to execute the extension after consulting with City Attorney Tim Freel.

• The annual contribution to the Tawas Area Chamber of Commerce in the amount of $1,500 to support the fireworks display was approved without dissent.

• Barringer reported that he received a letter from the State of Michigan District Health Department outlining their plans for testing beach waters in the area between June 25 and Aug. 6.