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Council reviews housing compliance, litter

WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington City Council heard from a citizen concerned about litter at its Monday meeting, and may consider a task force to address the issue.

Worthington resident Ann Rogers brought the issue of excessive litter before council members, using as visual aids two bags of trash she picked up on a recent walk with her husband.

"Tomorrow when we go back we'll pick up the same amount. I'm concerned because the quality of life is affected as well," said Rogers, who noticed the extent of the problem during her frequent walks around the lake and through local parks. She has retrieved cans, bottles, fast food bags and wrappers, all amid ample garbage cans.

"It makes me wonder what are we teaching these kids that they think these things don't need to be picked up?" she asked, mentioning Whiskey Ditch and the Beach Nook as especially problematic areas, and showing pictures of littered lake water and picnic areas.

"I witness it all the time," agreed Alderman Scott Nelson.

"Ann is right, there's no reason for that. There are plenty of trash cans," said Mayor Alan Oberloh, suggesting the Lake Okabena Improvement Association get involved.

Rogers said she wants to be a part of the solution and asserted education of residents would be vital. That would include enforcement of fines for littering -- state law indicates the act of littering has to be witnessed by a peace officer -- and signs declaring the city's zero-tolerance policy for wayward garbage.

"Signs are relatively inexpensive; I don't know why we couldn't do that," Oberloh said.

Public Safety Director Mike Cumiskey said he could have officers inform those using the basketball courts -- and in other high-traffic areas -- of the problem. The council may also consider a citizen's group to pump up education efforts.

In other business, the council on Monday:

- Received an update of the city's rental housing inspection efforts from the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership.

Of the 1,182 rental units registered, 862 have certificates of compliance with the city's health and safety requirements, reported Community/Economic Development Director Brad Chapulis.

The city has encountered about a dozen uncooperative landlords, representing 60 units. Those units and the 55 units that did not register this year may face legal action from the county attorney's office.

Chapulis said the properties are inspected to ensure they comply with minimum health and safety standards -- no broken windows or door locks, functional outlets, and no mold or infestation, for example.

- Adopted the proposed ordinance that will establish special charges for operation of the street lighting system.

- Adopted the proposed ordinance to vacate a portion of Circle Drive.

- Learned the Worthington Police Department has received two in-car video cameras through a grant from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety.