Hannibal Drug Ordinance Sparks Lengthy Discussion
Proposed changes to Hannibal’s drug ordinance sparked much discussion in city council chambers Tuesday.
City Manager Jeff LaGarce says the current ordinance allows the city to ban occupancy at a structure from 90 to 365 days after three drug arrests occur in 24 months. The changes allow the city to ban occupancy after one drug arrest, if the tenant had a previous drug eviction in Hannibal.
The intent is to discourage property owners from renting to people convicted of illegal drug activity. Landlords would have access to a city-maintained list of people evicted for illegal drugs. Councilman Kevin Lionberger expressed concern that verifying evictions could be burdensome; thus the city should notify all landlords. Councilman Kevin Knickerbocker countered it is not incumbent on the city to notify every single landlord every time someone is evicted.
City Attorney James Lemon agreed with Knickerbocker and stated the list would be readily available for landlords to view as part of their background checks for a prospective tenant. Lemon said state law allows the city to file an eviction suit against anyone convicted of illegal drug activity in Hannibal. He said the owner of the property involved in the eviction would be notified. Lemon said the intent is not to harass landlords, but to assist them with the eviction action after a drug conviction. The city takes on some of the responsibility to evict, while the landlord is expected to check the list before renting to a tenant.
City Manager Jeff LaGarce said the ordinance does not prohibit a property owner from renting to someone on the list, but the landlord would suffer the consequences of a ban on occupancy if the tenant is convicted again.
Brent Taylor of Taylor Properties addressed the council from the perspective of a landlord. Taylor was mostly supportive of the ordinance changes. He said under the original ordinance, anyone arrested 3 times should not be looking for a house to rent; they should be looking for a cell mate! Taylor said landlords sometimes run into situation where a tenant rents a property and later moves someone else in with a drug conviction. City Attorney James Lemon said that would not go against the owner if they contact police, who would follow up and notify Lemon's office to begin expedited eviction proceedings.
Taylor also brought up the subject of certain motels in Hannibal that operate as monthly rental units and have had patrons arrested for drug use. It was decided that a separate ordinance will be drafted regarding individuals convicted of drug activity at a motel.
Police Chief Lyndell Davis said the drug house ordinance does not directly involve police action, but it augments the fight against illegal drug use in the city.
The Drug House ordinance was given a First Reading.
A second Bill related to illegal drugs also received a good deal of discussion. It establishes EPA standards for testing and decontamination of structures where meth has been manufactured or used. Councilman Lionberger expressed concern regarding the word "structure". He was concerned an owner of a multi-family dwelling such as a duplex or triplex could be forced to clean and test all the units when only one was involved. It was agreed the language would be changed from "structure" to "individual unit" and presented in a Second Reading at the next meeting.
In other business, City Clerk Angel Zerbonia was given approval to begin the process of filling the 4th Ward Council vacancy due to the resignation of Barry Louderman.The opening will be advertised and a candidate selected at the second meeting in December. The person will serve until the next municipal election.
Parks and Rec Director Andy Dorian received approval to purchase property at 803 South Main Street for $3200 plus closing costs. The property will dovetail with a plan to develop a new park in the area between Sycamore and Main Street.