DOVER (WJER) (December 29, 2022) – City officials are crafting new rules to force negligent landowners to take care of their vacant properties.
Building and Zoning Code Administrator John McFadden says there are about three dozen vacant homes and businesses in the city. Some of them are becoming nuisances.
The new ordinance, approved this month by City Council, requires owners of vacant properties to register with the city and pay an annual fee that escalates each year the property is vacant up to $2,400 for homes and $4,800 for businesses.
McFadden says he hopes this motivates property owners to sell or find tenants instead of letting buildings sit vacant.
He says they run into problems with properties where the grass and vegetation are overgrown. The city doesn’t know who to contact to get it taken care of, and sometimes ends up calling multiple banks before finding out which is responsible.
McFadden says exceptions include houses vacated because of natural disaster or fire, snowbirds, and residents in nursing homes. He says the fees collected will go toward downtown improvements.
Raises for part-timers
Dover part-time employees will get a raise in the new year.
Interim Mayor Shane Gunnoe says the city wasn’t attracting enough applicants by only paying minimum wage, which will be $10.10 an hour in 2023 and was $9.30 in 2022.
New rates include $10.75 for part-time seasonal employees; and $12 for lifeguards, maintenance, security, and electric line workers.
The city’s crossing guards will be paid $13 an hour. Gunnoe says that’s the second highest pay rate in the area after Strasburg.
The ordinance also includes annual 10 cent raises following next year’s initial hike.
Officials eye 2023 budget
Dover’s auditor says funding some big projects will be challenging in the new year.
Nicole Stoldt says with prices increasing across the board, the city’s going to have to get creative if it wants to complete its list of capital improvement projects for 2023.
Those projects include a needed bridge on East 20th Street and traffic signal replacement throughout the city.
ODOT is helping with the funding, but the city is on the hook for another $800,000 to replace two signals, including the one downtown at 3rd and Walnut, that residents want but ODOT won’t pay for.
She says despite the challenges, residents can still expect the same level of service and staffing from the city.
Dover City Council members earlier this month approved temporary appropriations for next year at $67.6 million. That’s a bit lower than this year because of the pandemic relief money the city received in 2022. They will finalize and approve the budget in early 2023.