During its Monday meeting, the Pierre City Commission heard two separate proposals to change city ordinance.

According to a release from the city, the first proposed change is a request to update the city’s building code. Adopting modern code helps keep property insurance more affordable in Pierre.

The commission is considering adoption of the most recent available edition of the International I-Codes. The I-Codes are an internationally-recognized set of building standards designed to ensure the safety and integrity of new and remodeled structures, as well as other construction projects. The International Code Council updates the I-Codes every three years. City staff review the new I-Codes as they are issued and amend the codes to align with local needs.

The second proposal adds fines to the portion of ordinance related to building code and property maintenance violations, for which the current city ordinances give only limited methods for enforcement. The requested changes would add a fine structure for those violations. The City Building Department and the Police Department work cooperatively to enforce building and property codes.

Matt Elberson, a city building official, said that property owner rights will remain intact with the proposed changes.

“When a violation is reported to the city, staff will make contact with the property owner and work with that property owner to bring the property into compliance – just like we do now,” Elberson said. “This potential change would provide the city with a local resource for those situations when property owners remain chronically out of compliance.”

Under the proposal, property owners could receive fines — from $100 up to $250 — if they do not work toward compliance or reach compliance within 45 days. The proposed changes would also include fines for people working without proper building permits.

“Our goal is always voluntary compliance,” said Jason Jones, police chief for the city of Pierre. “Unfortunately, we have circumstances that eventually land in front of a judge because property remains unsanitary or unsafe. Those situations are often years in the making and serve as a drain on financial and staff resources.”

The Pierre city staff hope the requested ordinance changes will help with more immediate remedies for property violations. Legal action through the court system, however, would remain a possibility for the city and for property owners.

“I think this is an important tool for the livability of our neighborhoods and really the livability of our whole community,” said Vona Johnson, city commissioner.

The commission is expected to vote on the ordinance changes at the March 23 commission meeting.

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