“It’s a work in progress this first year.” That’s what Matt Ibberson said about the city’s new blight ordinance and enforcement action.

“It’s a work in progress this first year.” That’s what Matt Ibberson said about the city’s new blight ordinance and enforcement action. He said that it is a big group effort, with city staff and officials, and the blight committee members all pitching in.

Ibberson, appointed as the city’s blight officer, added, “Everyone’s been good to work with.”

The City of Sleepy Eye previously addressed residential blight conditions only, but responding to a number of concerns and complaints about blight at commercial properties, the council adopted a new blight ordinance about a year ago. The ordinance applies to the entire town and spells out in more detail what constitutes blight and includes a schedule of fines if repairs are not made.

After the ordinance was adopted and went into effect, Mayor Wayne Pelzel appointed a committee to advise on enforcement — Doug Pelzel, Richard Zinniel, Matt Vickery, Alissa Fischer, Matt Ibberson and Sara Hornbrook, who has since been chosen as chairperson. The committee will be meeting with the EDA to learn about programs they have that could assist property owners with repair expenses.

Ibberson said complaints generally come to the city office and are relayed to him. “I go look at the property, check off any items that are in violation and post a notice on the door,” he said. He said in the case of out-of-town property owners, the notice is mailed. He may also call the owner to discuss what needs to be done.

Ibberson said the committee is spending some time working downtown. At a recent meeting they looked at buildings, rated the issues they found and are in the process of notifying property owners of blight conditions that need to be addressed. As an example, Ibberson mentioned a broken, taped up window on the closed chinese restaurant. “I’ve talked to the owner about getting that fixed,” he said.

The residential areas are not being ignored. “I probably visit two a week,” said Ibberson. Exterior paint is one of the conditions the ordinance addresses. “I’ll start visiting with owners this winter, give them time to budget for paint. I hope to get a lot of those handled next summer.”

Overall, Ibberson is pleased with the response from property owners he’s dealt with. “They’ve all been good experiences,” he said. “I’d rather not issue a citation. I want to work with them on solutions.”