VAN WERT — New council members and returning members were sworn into office Monday night before the regular meeting of the City Council began. The new members heard how complaints about property warnings are being handled and were introduced to the writing of new ordinances for the year.

Four new members of the Van Wert City Council were sworn in before the regular meeting. Former Mayor Jerry Mazur was sworn in as the Council President. Taking the oath of office were David Stinett, Second Ward Councilman; Julie Moore, Third Ward Councilwoman; and Judith Agler-Bowers, Councilwoman-At-Large.

The Council began with a full discussion of clean-up ordinances that have been discussed extensively on social media platforms. The enforcement of the clean-up code violations has been an ongoing concern for years in Van Wert in an attempt to keep the city looking neat and proper. A few years ago, 500 citations per year were issued concerning the appearance of lots, but that number has reduced in recent years to around 230, according to Bill Marshall, Councilman At-Large. A large portion of the citations seems to be the same situation from year to year, with neighbors calling in recurring problems.

Jay Fleming, Safety Service Director, and Law Director John Hatcher both added comments to help explain the clean-up code warning process for the public. According to Hatcher, written warnings and 10-day notices are issued before any citations are given, which is required by law. He further explained that only one warning per year is needed by law. The warning could appear at a property for tidiness violations in January and then be followed by a citation in February or June. Another warning would not need to be served unless it pertains to a different code issue. A new warning would then be issued, if necessary, the next calendar year.

Fleming was concerned about discussions in the public that citations just appear without warning. As Hatcher noted, warnings are always given out at least 10 days before a citation. Hatcher also explained the fines and court costs for property clean-up citations. When a property owner makes the effort to be in compliance by cleaning up the property before going to court, he recommends a zero fine. However, they must pay the court costs. If the individual does not bring the property into compliance, they receive a $100 fine per household.

Hatcher also informed the public and the Council that municipal court costs have increased to $135 from $95. He said that has been the first increase in 10 years.

Hatcher reiterated that citizens should ask his office questions if they are not sure about something. Complaining on social media doesn’t help; asking direct questions does help. Hatcher said, “I’m willing to work with people and I prefer to work with people.”

Also under discussion was an issue brought up by resident Mark Davis who felt that the city was not keeping up with obstructions to traffic. He noted several corners with tall bushes in the line of sight of traffic at intersections. He also pointed out that the new LED signs in town and some residential motion detecting floodlights are too bright for light-sensitive people and therefore disruptive to traffic.

In other matters, the Council approved ordinances to change the ward boundaries to be better balanced. Three 10-year 90% tax abatement agreements were approved: Van Wert Forward 1 LLC for $26 million; V-Wert II for $6.5 million; and MBK LCC for $5 million. The Council also heard resolutions to recognize the former council members for their service.

Three council members agreed to appointments by the Council. Andrew Davis was appointed to the Airport Authority Board of Trustees; Judith Bowers to the Woodland Union Cemetery Board, and Bill Marshall to the Energy Special Improvement District Board.

The next meeting of the Van Wert City Council will be held at 6:30 pm, Mon., Jan. 24, in Council Chambers, 515 E. Main St.