The Old Main Neighborhood Association has requested that a previously rejected public nuisance ordinance be brought back under discussion by the Common Council in hopes of using the measure to work with the police department.
The ordinance would aid law enforcement in addressing chronic nuisance throughout the City of Stevens Point, not just areas surrounding the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Under the ordinance, property owners would need to create a nuisance abatement plan with the police after three citations for offenses occurring on the same property within 30 days.
City Attorney Logan Beveridge proposed the ordinance last November and it was turned down due to backlash from area landlords. The concern was that the ordinance would target property owners who have no control over their tenants. Members of OMNA wish to revisit to the topic and attempt to have the ordinance passed.
“We wanted a chance for this ordinance to be looked at again by key stakeholders,” said OMNA President Cindy Nebel. “It is meant to address more issues than just college parties. The best way to avoid nuisance occurrences is through open communication, and this is an extra tool for police to use in addressing these occurrences.”
The committee that formed to discuss the ordinance looked at the positives and the pitfalls of the proposal, noting what could benefit the city and what could be changed. Nuisance ordinances in other cities such as Madison and Milwaukee were also taken into consideration.
“We are actually one of the only cities without a plan like this, and we think it would be beneficial to all residents,” Nebel said. “If the ordinance is passed, the hope is that people will be aware of the consequences and take more responsibility for their actions.”
Nebel stressed that the majority of landlords would never see the steps taken in the ordinance play out because they do indeed exercise control over their tenants.
“This measure is more preventative than reactionary,” Nebel said. “We want to avoid conflict.”
Nebel said that the ordinance is really centered on the quality of life and safety of all residents, including students. Stevens Point Police Chief Kevin Ruder agrees with this.
“This is a partnership to help come up with a solution to chronic nuisance issues,” Ruder said. “Many people are focusing on the worst case scenario, but this is really just meant to bring everyone together to resolve a problem.”
Ruder said one of the biggest misconceptions is that every phone call to the police would be a strike against property owners. He stressed that this is not the case. It is only the number of citations that will count within the thirty-day span.
Members of the Student Government Association would like to have more open discussion among UWSP administration and the city.
“Our concerns focus mainly on the effect this ordinance would have on the off-campus student population,” said SGA President Chris Slattery. “If this ordinance were to become enforceable, landlords could face fines ranging from $1,000 to a maximum of $5,000. SGA is concerned that the cost of these fines would be shifted to a student renter, who may already be paying their way through school.”
Slattery mentioned that UW System Chapter 17 directly addresses non-academic student misconduct and may be dealt with through the office of the dean of students.
Nebel and Ruder hope that with more detailed exceptions written into it, the ordinance could pass this time around. There has not yet been a date set to bring the ordinance back before the council.
“It is meant to address more issues than just college parties. The best way to avoid nuisance occurrences is through open communication, and this is an extra tool for police to use in addressing these occurrences.” – OMNA President Cindy Nebel