At the Oct. 5 Great Bend City Council meeting, Councilman Dana Dawson raised concerns about the boarding of windows and the public eyesores this practice creates. It was determined that the matter would be discussed when the council next met, which was this Monday night.
Dawson requested looking at possible alternatives to address broken windows in buildings being replaced with wood or similar materials. No action was taken, and the matter was tabled indefinitely pending further discussion, possibly at a council study session.
“First impressions are everything,” Dawson said. Great Bend has a lot to brag about, “but what stands out are things that don’t look so nice.”
There are a lot of factors to be considered, City Administrator Kendal Francis said. These include such things as enforcement, cost, the “grandfathering” properties not currently meeting the new standards, and others.
“I have concerns about the magnitude of the issue,” Francis said. “It is very widespread throughout the entire city and encompasses both residential and commercial properties.”
As a starting point, he prepared a draft ordinance that would require broken windows to be replaced with glass or plexiglass. Failure to do so would result in municipal court fines.
Violations can also be met with abatement by the city at the recommendation of the code enforcement officer. Standard abatement procedures, time lines and hearing guidelines apply.
“This would make a lot of difference in how things look,” Dawson said. His biggest concern were commercial properties along Main and 10th streets, including the dilapidated former Highland Hotel.
“The town ought to look nice,” he said. This might cause owners to take action and show some pride in their properties.
But. “I’m afraid we’re opening a can of worms,” said Mayor Cody Schmidt. He worried about the fairness of singling out businesses, as well as how it would be enforced.
Francis shared similar trepidation. “Where do you draw the line?”
When a property is abated, city crews can come in and clean it up, and bill the owner. But, in these cases, the city doesn’t want to be the one to make the repairs, making taking the cases to municipal court the only option.
“I would caution you not to rush into anything,” Francis said.
According to the draft ordinance, windows in any permanent building or structure may be temporarily boarded for a period of not-to-exceed 30 days. After that time, windows must be replaced with glass or Plexiglas.
As for the plywood, windows and similar openings shall be temporarily boarded with exterior grade plywood of minimum 7/16 of an inch thickness or its equivalent. All boarded openings shall be painted with a minimum of one coat of exterior paint which is of a color compatible with the exterior color of the building or structure.
Should offender fail to comply with the notices to abate or request a hearing, the code enforcement officer shall file a complaint in the municipal court against them and, upon conviction, be punished by a fine of $500 dollars or a jail sentence of up to 30 days in jail, or both.
Each day during or on whicCh the violation occurs or continues after notice has been served shall constitute an additional or separate offense.