Rental property conditions, the look of Sedalia, concerns about drug problems and road conditions were among the main topics discussed during Tuesday’s town hall meeting hosted by Sedalia City Councilmembers from Wards 2 and 3.
About 25 people attended the meeting, which was hosted at Centennial Park by councilmembers Bob Cross and Don Meier from Ward 3 and Becca La Strada from Ward 2. The meeting started out with Cross taking concerns from those in attendance, giving each person three minutes to speak, but it soon turned into a large group discussion about problems in Sedalia. The main topics of the roughly 45-minute meeting soon became the condition of rental properties and what can be done about landlords who don’t properly care for homes, and the condition of roads.
“I recently helped a disabled woman try to find a place to live and we looked at 10 houses, and I’ve seen barns in better shape than some of these places,” said resident Vicky Collins. “Isn’t there an ordinance for rental property owners? …they’re preying on low-income people who have no choice but to live in squalor.”
As more residents chimed in on the issue, Cross and La Strada explained there is an ordinance regarding rental properties. As the meeting went on, smaller conversations were sparked by the main discussion, and each councilmember was split up in different conversations with residents. Residents bounced ideas off of each other about how to improve problems within the city, while councilmembers tried to explain laws and ordinances related to their concerns.
One resident brought up the question of why rental property owners don’t use the deposit given to them by tenants to have maintenance work completed on the homes once a tenant moves out. Cross explained that surrounding communities have ordinances requiring the city to inspect rental properties once a year and property owners foot the bill, but when the idea was proposed in Sedalia a few years ago, property owners were “livid” about passing the ordinance.
Collins told the Democrat the main reason she attended the meeting was to get some answers about rental property conditions, but that she didn’t think the meeting was productive, and that the city and councilmembers are “throwing it beside the curb.” She said she plans to continue to look for answers, starting with calling Mayor Steve Galliher and the housing authority today.
“I don’t believe that what works in other surrounding communities can’t work here,” she said. “It’s ridiculous.”
Throughout the meeting, all three councilmembers emphasized the importance of contacting councilmembers and City Hall.
“We all need to work together so we know your problems and we get to know you,” La Strada said during the meeting. “If we don’t know you have problems, how can we help you? We want to treat everyone with dignity and respect.”
Overall, all three councilmembers were pleased with the turnout and that so many problems were discussed.
“People were able to voice concerns and compliments. We have a list of wants and needs for throughout the city,” said La Strada, who took notes throughout the meeting. “We will turn these into the city. Some of them can be taken care of quickly, while others will be taken care of at a later date or added to the budget for next year.”
Both La Strada and Meier told a few residents they would stop by their homes to see problems firsthand, and all three said they would take concerns to the city and the proper authorities to find answers for their constituents.
“A lot of people have concerns and we’ll try our best to address them,” Meier said. “At this point we have to pass these things on to the city. We realize there’s lots of concerns, and we’d like to see them change and help if possible.”
Wards 1 and 4 will be hosting another town hall meeting in July, and La Strada said they plan to host several throughout the year.
“I believe we should have more (meetings) to see people face to face and they can see us face to face,” she said. “That way we can develop relationships and through those relationships accomplish more for our neighborhoods.”