HIBBING — Last month, the Hibbing Police Department hired two technicians to patrol parking, blight and animal control violations. After receiving numerous complaints from urban and rural parts of the city, the police chief has approached elected officials in an effort to strengthen enforcement of the ordinances.
“We’ve been hammering a lot of properties and this would expedite the process,” Police Chief Steve Estey told councilors during a Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday evening. “That’s the only way we’re going to clean up the city.”
Estey summarized the drafted series of escalating enforcement methods to include written, administrative and then criminal citations, followed by the possibility of the city-imposed charges to remove abandoned vehicles, etc, off land and then a lien on the property to be collected similar to real estate taxes.
In an email Tuesday, Estey sent the Mesabi Tribune a copy of the drafted ordinance (below) to be discussed at the next city council meeting scheduled for Sept. 22.
Sec. 10.98 Enforcement Procedures
Subd. 1. The following provisions shall apply to Sec. 10.01, 10.02, 10.42, 10.44 and 10.46
1. When the enforcement officer can confirm a violation of the above ordinances has occurred, he/she shall place a copy of the HPD ordinance form on the property and also mail a copy to the property owner or party in lawful possession for the party to remedy the violation within 7 days.
2. If the violation has not been remedied after 7 days the enforcement officer will issue an administrative citation for the appropriate ordinance to the violator and provide them 7 more days to remedy the violation. The enforcement officer will also serve a copy of the city removal notice on the property and also mail a copy to the property owner or party in lawful possession.
3. If the violation has not been remedied after 7 days from receiving the administrative citation the enforcement officer will issue a criminal citation to the property owner or party in lawful possession of the property. The enforcement officer also moves forward with the process to have the ordinance remedied by means of removal using city resources and follow the guidelines in MSS 168B in reference to abandoned vehicles.
4. City employees will then use city resources to remove the abandoned vehicle, abandoned property, garbage or grass removal. This article/articles will be destroyed, and the salvage value, if any, of such article or articles shall be retained by the City to be applied against the cost of removal and destruction thereof. The City shall cause such work to be done and the expenses thus incurred shall be a lien upon such real estate. The City Clerk-Treasurer shall certify to the County Auditor of St. Louis County a statement of the amount of the cost incurred by the City. Such amount together with interest shall be entered as a special assessment against such lot or parcel of land and be collected in the same manner as real estate taxes.
Subd. 2. Appeals.
Any person aggrieved by a decision of the enforcement officer in the enforcement of this Section may appeal the decision to the Zoning Board of Appeals and Adjustments in the manner set forth in Chapter 2 of the City Code.
In recent years, the city had the Building Officer and police officers enforce parking, blight and animal control violations. In the wake of COVID-19, the city pulled back and did not crack down on calendar parking issues, despite it creating problems for snow plowers and emergency responders. After receiving “a flood of complaints,” the police chief previously said, the city moved to create the PBA positions.
Last month, the police department announced via Facebook the city hired technicians who “have completed their training and have started patrolling the city for these ordinance violations.” In response, people on local social media sites expressed mostly support for the enforcement, especially when it comes to residential eye-sores and helping remove vehicles long over-parked in front of restaurants on Howard Avenue.
On Monday, Estey reiterated the police department’s intention to give warnings before citations. “Our main focus is to clear up the town, not give tickets, he said.
“It’s been working,” Mayor Rick Cannata said at the meeting.
Historically, the city has enforced the ordinance in the urban district. But several city councilors, including Jennifer Hoffman Saccoman and James Bayliss, said they have received calls from citizens who were “excited” to have officers enforce the blight ordinance in rural areas, such as west of town along Highway 73.
The calls sparked debate among councilors over how to define blight in urban and rural districts. Cannata questioned how police officers would enforce the ordinance throughout the 186-square-mile city, the largest by total area in the state.