Comments Off on St. Charles considers rules for reoccupying meth homes

St. Charles officials want to make it harder for people to reoccupy structures where police found evidence of methamphetamine production.

Letting people move into such residences before they’ve been properly cleaned is a clear public safety issue, said Bruce Evans, the city’s community development director.

Evans asked the City Council during its April 9 work session to review a draft of a proposed ordinance that would give his department the power to condemn such properties.

The department currently can declare a home unfit for human habitation if there are obvious factors that make it unsafe, such as if the foundation walls are bowing, the windows are broken out or if electrical wiring is exposed.

“Things like that we can take quick action on,” Evans said. “With meth, it’s not obvious to the human eye, so this bill would give us a tool to use. The residue from manufacturing meth becomes embedded in drywall, paint and carpet. A family could move in thinking the house is clean, a toddler could crawl across the floor, pick it up and put it in his mouth. He could get very sick.”

Evans told the council four or five meth busts have occurred at homes in St. Charles since the beginning of the year.

Evans’ bill is similar to laws passed by the St. Charles County Council in 2011 and by the Wentzville Board of Aldermen in March, but he said he would seek input from the city’s police and fire chiefs before the final version is drafted.

“When the drug task force calls us to an address, if they tell us they see clear evidence of meth manufacturing, we’ll try to find a reason to find the home uninhabitable,” he said.

Evans’ draft spells out precise levels of contaminants that would render a structure dangerous and unsafe and would require the owner to have the structure tested, decontaminated and certified that it is free of contaminants before it could be reoccupied. The property owner would have to hire a qualified company or contractor to conduct the cleanup in compliance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.

Under the county’s ordinance, owners of properties where meth was manufactured have 20 days to establish a schedule for decontaminating the structure and relay that to the Division of Neighborhood Preservation. If the owners don’t comply, the county may disconnect electric service to the property to ensure it is not reoccupied until it is decontaminated.

“That puts the onus on the owner to clean up the structure to make it safe,” Evans said.

Evans said the city would need to identify companies that are qualified to decontaminate meth homes.

City Councilwoman Bridget Ohmes, Ward 10, said requiring the property owner to hire a professional company to clean up a home where meth was produced would take the liability for the cleanup away from the city.



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