City Law Director John Hatcher explains the terms of a consent judgment entry that resolves litigation between the City of Van Wert and Haven of Hope during Monday’s City Council Meeting. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)
City Law Director John Hatcher explains the terms of a consent judgment entry that resolves litigation between the City of Van Wert and Haven of Hope during Monday’s City Council Meeting. (DHI Media/Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – During Monday’s City Council meeting, Council discussed a consent judgment entry that would end Haven of Hope’s litigation against the City of Van Wert and allow the group to open a men’s homeless shelter at 233 N. Market St. as long as they follow the terms of the entry.

According to the consent judgment entry, both parties agreed to allow Haven of Hope to open and operate at 233 N. Market St. as long as Haven of Hope agrees to erect a perimeter fence of at least six feet to separate properties, agrees that hours of operation will be posted and clearly stated to the public, agrees that at least one person will be in attendance during hours of operation (and emergency hours of operation), and agrees that a list of occupants for each day (night) of operation be maintained.

The entry will be posted on the city website for citizens to view before a resolution is passed. Council plans to pass a resolution to authorize Law Director John Hatcher to sign the agreement on Aug. 10. All those who have comments or concerns about the agreement are encouraged to attend the Aug. 10 City Council meeting to be heard.

Also during the meeting, Council asked for ordinance 98.04 to be amended to increase charges of city mowing costs. Currently, if a person receives a nuisance violation for tall grass or weeds, they have 30 days to rectify the situation. If the grass is still not mowed after 30 days, the City mows the yard and charges the owner $200. A $200 charge is applied each time the City mows the yard, sometimes multiple times a year at certain properties. Councilman Bill Marshall asked to amend the ordinance so that repeat offenders are charged $400 each time after the first offense per calendar year.

City Auditor Martha Balyeat provided Council with information showing that many of those who get the violations are repeat offenders year after year. She also noted that the majority of people do not pay when they are billed. Instead, the charge typically is added to their taxes.

Council President Jon Tomlinson urged residents to make keeping up with their yards a priority after resident Joe Jared reminded Council of financial hardships created by COVID-19. Tomlinson said that many of these nuisance properties have had issues for years.

"People have to prioritize when they have limited income," said Tomlinson. "Taking care of your property so that your property doesn't devalue the hard-earned money of someone else needs to be a priority. That's one of the primary jobs of City ordinances and City laws. If people need help, call somebody. Don't rely on us to charge you $200 to mow your grass."

During his report, Mayor Ken Markward said the City is looking at an alert system that would notify City residents of emergency situations. While the City looks for a long term system, Markward encourages residents to sign up for the EMA weather alerts. EMA Director Rick McCoy said his system could be used to alert residents of things like a “boil water advisory” until the City gets their own system.

To sign up for EMA alerts, visit vanwertema.com, click the “weather” link at the top, and click the “nixle” graphic on the right side of the page.

In other business, Council passed ordinance 20-04-024, which defines homeless shelters for city ordinance and ordinance 20-06-034, which states the locations (B2, B3, and Industrial Zones) in which homeless shelter and like facilities may locate on the third and final reading.

With no further business, Council adjourned. The next City Council meeting is set for Aug. 10 at 6:30 p.m. in Council Chambers at the Municipal Building.