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Monday, January 14, 2008

West St. Paul / City halts fines, won't halt visits

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Blogger Bob said...

Search warrants will replace penalties in sump pump chase
Pioneer Press
Article Last Updated: 01/13/2008 11:25:59 PM CST

An ordinance that would allow homes to be inspected for broken sewer pipes or illegally connected sump pumps will go before the West St. Paul City Council for the first time today.

But the proposed ordinance - aimed at stopping rainwater from getting into the city's sanitary sewer system - will not include a provision to fine homeowners who refuse the inspection.

City Attorney Kori Land said that provision was removed after she read about a similar policy in Vadnais Heights in last Monday's Pioneer Press. The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota asserted that Vadnais Heights' $200 quarterly fine against homeowners who refuse an inspection is intimidation and violates the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure.

West St. Paul's ordinance would have allowed the city to charge a $50 monthly fine to the owner or occupant of a home who refused inspection within 30 days of the notice. The fine for businesses had been set at $300.

Public Works Director Matt Saam, who is overseeing the city's inflow and infiltration reduction program, said the only concern he has heard from city staff or council members about fines was related to the amount.

"We wanted it be fair, but as far as the idea itself of having an economic penalty for properties that chose not to allow an inspection, I've never been told to remove it from the ordinance," he said. "So that kind of took us by surprise."

The retooled ordinance does not
leave the city defenseless against stubborn homeowners who refuse an inspection, however. It includes a provision that would allow the city to inspect a home or business after obtaining an administrative search warrant in district court.
In an effort to reduce the amount of fresh water going into the sanitary sewer system, the Metropolitan Council identified 46 communities that were sources of excess water and gave each the option to pay a large fine or fix the problem.

To avoid a $205,000 Met Council penalty, West St. Paul must spend at least that amount on inflow and infiltration repairs this year.

"We are taking the approach that these issues are on the private side and the public side," Saam said. "We've maintained our own public lines, but we've largely ignored the private side."

Saam said a 2006 study determined the worst area is in the northeast part of the city - east of Robert Street and north of Butler Avenue. He said inspections would begin there in the spring.

"I'm hoping we don't to have to go to every house in town," he said. "We're hoping if we go to the worst areas first, it will correct the problem."

Last month the city hosted a three-hour "Sewer Fair" on the proposed ordinance.

The city is prepared to pay for up to half the cost for repairs to private sewer lines that go from the home to the city's main line in the street. Residents who are ordered to disconnect an illegal sump pump or repair foundation drainage issues must pay for such fixes themselves.

A first reading of the ordinance will be at today's City Council meeting. A public hearing and vote is set for Jan. 28.

Nick Ferraro can be reached at or 651-228-2173.

4:53 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Well folks at least West Saint Paul city officials have HALF a brain..

Any judge who would sign a search warrant for something like this would need his head examined.

Where is the probable cause for a search? A denial of entry to the home by an owner is not justification to assume a crime has been committed!

I am starting to wonder if there is a Gestapo training camp someplace around here?

5:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The city has a problem with excess rain and groundwater being treated. They are approaching it properly, trying to get a judge's order to go into peoples' homes.

What I am wondering is whether they are also testing sewer lines for infiltration, and repairing them as needed, or just looking at homes.

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To avoid any Flax ie: Kory Larson Land is also the Lawyer for Law Firm, acting as City Attorney for West St. Paul who's Mayor John Zanmiller, lives in Blain and on St. Paul Water Board???????? Conflicts abound Major Big Time
Please remember Judge Leslie Metzen made Alice sleep at Dorothy Day for over 1 year, Currently Alice is back in her paid for Home worth $200,000.00

6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only way you get treated fairly or with any rights by government any more is if you are a crook or aq deadbeat looking to suck up city services.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

IF, they get a court order to SEARCH a home under these circumstances it will be a violation of the owners constitutional right to privacy.

I believe most people would comply and voluntarily have the work done to their home.

The few who resist is NOT worth the expense of violating everyones constitutional right to privacy!

9:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the ground is saturated, or saturated part of the year, expect a number of illegal sump pumps, and also expect a number of sanitary sewer lines with serious infiltration problems.

9:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good one 6:19pm
It sounds like you are damned if you do, and damned if you don't.
Either way the cities will violate your rights.

6:54 AM  

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