BELPRE - The city law book is one step closer to matching the state of Ohio with the Monday night passage of the second of three readings of an ordinance to ban open burning in the city limits.
The ordinance, which must go through one more reading, will prohibit open burning within the city limits without obtaining a permit from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
Ohio's laws state that open burning within municipalities is forbidden and the upcoming passage of the city's legislation will bring Belpre in alignment with the state, said Mayor Mike Lorentz.
Belpre City Councilman Eric Sinnett discusses a possible change to the burning ban legislation.
"This is not all our making; the Ohio EPA bans all burning in cities," he said. "We were going to limit burning and then found out that even our legislation was incorrect because there is no burning allowed."
The ordinance authorizes Belpre's fire chief or designated appointee, which may be Safety-Service Director Dave Ferguson, to view the scene of open burning reported to the city and cause the fire to be extinguished if it is determined to be creating a hazard or nuisance to the public.
The ordinance requires the city of Belpre to report incidents of open burning to the Ohio EPA.
"I told people who called me that they could burn if they have the money to pay the Ohio EPA's fine," Lorentz said.
The third and final reading of the legislation is expected to take place during the April 25 council meeting.
Council passed the third reading of two ordinances pertaining to the removal of weeds and litter from property where the owner has not taken action. The ordinances enable the city's safety-service director to determine if action is needed to clear noxious weeds, grass or other vegetation as well as litter from properties.
Belpre City Council Monday passed the second of three readings of an ordinance that bans open burning of any item within the city limits.
Although council still has to pass one more reading of the legislation, city police and fire officials are enforcing it now because the state of Ohio does not allow burning in municipalities.
James E. Jackson II, 50, and Crystal Dillon, 24, of 602 Florence St., Belpre, appeared before council to ask questions as to when they could begin to rebuild a house on the foundation of their home that burned down in October, taking the life of their 2-year-old daughter.
A notice will be sent to either cut the weeds or remove the litter and if the property owner does not take action - within five days for the weeds and 15 days for the litter - to remove the material the city will take action, officials said.
If the city has to take action, costs will be paid by the owner or the person in charge of the property. Failure to do so will result in a misdemeanor for each day nothing is done.
In other business:
Dillon appeared before council because she and Jackson believed they had to begin work on the new structure within six months of the devastating fire and that date is quickly approaching.
"I would like to put before the council and (obtain) permission to get this process going to be able to rebuild, considering there is a law that you cannot rebuild after six months," Dillon said. "It will be six months next Monday."
McCauley and Webster assured her that the six-month deadline is a zoning law and does not pertain to their situation.
Ferguson said the cleanup notice was for two lots adjacent to the lot their home was on and the city would like the debris to be removed after area residents have complained.
"It will be taken care of starting this week," Jackson said.
The lot at 602 Florence St. will remain as is awaiting the jury trial of Dillon and Jackson before Common Pleas Court Judge Ed Lane on charges related to the death of their 2-year-old daughter, Bianca Jackson, who died in an October fire.
"The (Washington County) prosecuting attorney's office said that they have what they need from the scene and we don't have to maintain the site at this point and it could be cleaned up," Webster said. "It is the defense's statement at this time that the scene be left alone."
The couple also was given permission to bring in their own certified engineer to inspect the remaining foundation and structure for rebuild approval.