By JUDITH O. ETZEL – Contributing writer
An Oil City resident who keeps a location ripe for “idleness, gaming, drinking … or misbehavior” is due for higher fines and longer jail terms if city council has its way.
Commonly known as running a disorderly house, the infraction was addressed by city council at a meeting this week.
Council, aiming to amend a 1928 city ordinance in order to stiffen enforcement and modernize the city code, gave its preliminary approval to changing the measure with a final OK set for the next council session.
The judge is dealing with a very high amount of disorderly house charges in Oil City, Wenner told council at a previous meeting.
In addition to changing the penalties, the amendment also tossed out a 1928 insertion that the mayor or an alderman could convict any person charged with running a disorderly house. The new article puts that responsibility solely into the hands of the city police.
While council members favored upping the penalties – $100 to $300 and/or a jail term of 30 to 90 days – for the first misdemeanor charge, there was a discussion of what constitutes “idleness.”
“How do you define idleness?” asked city councilman Ron Gustafson. “(I think) … you should strike ‘idleness’ from this.”
That prompted a discussion as to whether drinking a beer and watching a football game equated to “drinking” and “idleness.”
City solicitor Robert Varsek agreed that idleness is “an outdated term” and told council, “I don’t have a problem eliminating idleness.”
Councilman Michael Poff told Wenner, “I’m not worried about your judgment in this. … My concern in the language is that 30 years from now (as administrations change), we don’t have a problem.”
“We are dealing with the same houses over and over again,” he said. “This is only done after multiple warnings. … You gotta work at getting (a citation).”
Council agreed to leave the idleness reference in the amendment, a move that prompted Gustafson to laugh and add, “Well, I’ll just keep busy.”
Parking fines hiked
In a second amendment to an existing city code, council gave tentative approval to boosting parking fines to conform to state-set standards.
The move was prompted by the city’s intent to purchase bulk parking tickets as well as a propensity of some drivers to use no parking zones or fire hydrant areas because the fines are less than a parking ticket.
The new rates, based on final approval by council, include:
– $50, not $20, for parking in a handicapped zone
– $15, not $5, for parking within 20 feet of a crosswalk.
– $5 from $2 overtime fine in parking lots
– $15 from $5 fine for parking in a no parking zone
– $10 from $5 fine for improper parking in a permit spot.
There would be no changes for overtime parking on some streets ($15), second ticket for that offense ($20), exceeding the two-hour maximum parking limit ($10) or parking in a loading zone ($20).
The parking fees would go into effect early next year.