SE City Council reads rental inspection ordinance

SLEEPY EYE — After lengthy discussion, spirited at times, the Sleepy Eye City Council held a first reading of a new rental inspection ordinance Tuesday.

Sleepy Eye City Attorney Alissa Fischer said there was a lot of interest in the topic by local rental property owners. The new ordinance will include annual inspections by person appointed by the City of Sleepy Eye to look for fire and Co2 alarms, fire extinguishers and proper heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

“There have been difficulties with inspections in the past,” Fischer said. “We will get all rentals licensed and inspected.”

Several rental property owners asked how the inspections and licenses would be enforced.

Retired City Manager Mark Kober said city staff know who owns rental property.

“The 2006 rental inspection ordinance has been on the books but has not been followed for everyone due to problems with renters missing inspection appointments and property owners not paying fines,” Kober said.

A rental property owner said over-occupancy by renters is a big problem.

“I feel every rental unit should be inspected. No excuses,” said Sleepy Eye Fire Chief Ron Zinniel. “A life is a life. It’s for the safety of renters and landlords.”

Fischer said she will research what cities about the size of Sleepy Eye are charging for rental inspections and licenses and report back to the city council next month.

“There’re a lot of people who try to get by with anything and everything,” said councilor Larry Braun. “We want to put teeth in this and get everybody to play the same game.You’ve got to start some place to get something done.”

Former city councilor Dick Zinniel mentioned several city codes, including those concerning municipal utilities (water, sewerage, electric and refuse service), have changed. In addition, code 8-2-4 read refuse containers shall be placed at the designated collection point, generally the alley adjacent to property from which refuse is collected. Where there is no alley, the curb line in front of such property.

Premises served include residential purposed and apartment buildings containing 25 units or less.

“Refuse falls under municipal utilities,” Zinniel said. “Everything changed before the code changed.”

Councilor Joann Schmidt said the existing city rental inspection ordinance is available online.

The city council also:

• Denied a variance request by Haala Development to use pillars instead of a regular foundation for a modular home at 413 Ellsworth Ave. S.E. Councilor Doug Pelzel said in his motion to deny that it’s against city code that requires a uniform, solid foundation on residences. Braun seconded the motion.

• Unanimously approved fireworks permits for the Sleepy Eye Fire Department for the north or south lake shore, Dairy Queen and the Freedom station, motion by Braun, second by Schmidt.

• Certified $13,759.13 in total City costs for a lot being sold by the County at 221 Water St. S.E. The County plans to sell the lot later.

• Heard from City Manager Kelly Truver that grants are available for up to 100 percent of an estimated $55,000 in testing and reclamation costs for the former Standard station property at 245 E. Main St. The property is being considered to be used for future Sleepy Eye Chamber of Commerce offices.

• Approved a resolution to keep sidewalks costing $114,000 in the northeast part of town in the 2020 Street & Utility project, motion by councilor Gary Windschitl, seconded by Schmidt.

• Set a Finance Committee meeting for noon, Friday, March 29 in the council chambers.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at