Disgruntled resident addresses council

Staff writer

A disgruntled resident had words for Hillsboro City Council Tuesday over alleged mistreatment from city building inspector Ben Steketee.

Kevin Tidwell, who lives in the 200 block of B St., accuesed Steketee of harassing him for not following city code. Steketee disagreed.

Tidwell’s main complaint against Steketee involved his power being disconnected by city crews for three days beginning July 21, during which temperatures reached nearly 100 degrees. He said the disconnection caused his dog to lose all her puppies because of overheating. Additionally, $300 worth of food in his fridge and freezer went bad, and he had to spend money on day-care for two children living at the home.

Tidwell’s power was disconnected after receiving a letter from the city directing him to remove some recent electrical work that was not up to code. The letter, sent by Steketee, stated the work had to be done by a licensed electrician and inspected by Steketee within three days or power to the home would be disconnected.

Steketee said concerns about the wiring causing a fire prompted him to act immediately.

Tidwell told council he removed an extension cord strung from the garage through a wall and outside to an arc welder by Saturday. Steketee said Tidwell failed to inform him the cord was removed and did not remove the outlet inside the garage as the letter instructed.

Before crews cut power, Steketee said he attempted to talk with Tidwell, who said he was in the bathroom at the time and unable to come to the door.

After power was cut, Tidwell contacted a licensed electrician who removed the outlet on July 22, but Steketee was on an ambulance call and was unable to inspect the work until July 23, after which power was restored.

Tidwell said he saw Steketee taking photos of his property after 5 p.m. July 22, but was not contacted to have the finished electrical work inspected. Steketee said he did not want to have to charge Tidwell the city’s overtime rate to turn the power back on after 5 p.m.

“I would have paid the overtime,” Tidwell said.

Tidwell told council this is one of several instances over the past two years that have led him to believe Steketee was harassing him.

Complaints against Tidwell’s property have been numerous, Mayor Dolores Dalke said. Infractions Tidwell has been cited for include inoperable vehicles, debris on property, and the lack of a front door.

“This case takes up most of my time,” Steketee said. “I’m dealing with it the best way I know how.”

Tidwell said he feels like he is harassed because everyday Steketee is at his house taking photos.

“Everything needs to be enforced fair and equal,” Tidwell said.

The numerous infractions and lack of following city processes has prevented Steketee from allowing Tidwell to perform improvements to his house himself, Steketee said.

“He hasn’t proven to me that he can do the work up to code,” Steketee said. “I have well over 260 photos of the property from the past two years and each one contains a violation. If I start seeing a change and stop getting complaints, then we can talk about you doing work again. You’ve been informed of the violations and can fix them.”

City code allows homeowners to work on their own residences, provided the work is up to city code and passes inspection, neither of which Steketee said Tidwell is able to do.

Tidwell shared with council a list of infractions he’s been ticketed for by other homeowners around town. Dalke said she would have Steketee look into the infractions but cautioned Tidwell to take care of his own property.

“You guys take care of your problems, and we’ll make sure Ben does his job,” she said. “If there is a problem of Ben not doing his job, then that’s our problem, and we’ll take care of it, but you do what you can to get in our good graces, and we’ll all get along just fine.”

Budget

After no comments from council or public during a public hearing, council members voted to approve the 2015 budget with very few changes from the previous year.

The new budget keeps tax rates the same and gives the city only $1,014 more to spend than in 2014.

Paine said since 1999 the city has kept a budget within plus or minus two mills every year with this year’s being 40.366 mills or around $460 in property taxes for residents with a $100,000 home.

In other business:

  • A resolution for the Arts and Crafts Fair was approved. It changes the time of the fair Saturday to end at 4 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. and set up on Friday can begin at 7 p.m. rather than 5 p.m.
  • Mayor Dalke appointed Frank Johnson and Gary Tibbetts to the Planning Commission, and Dawn Helmer to the Recreation Commission.

 

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