KENNETH CITY — Confronted by more than 130 angry residents, Town Council members backed down Wednesday night on a plan allowing town officials to enter properties to assure they are in good condition.
Kenneth City town attorney Paul Marino said he would not object to removing the controversial section of the ordinance because some state laws already allow police officers to enter homes if they have probable cause.
Marino's comment came during a three-hour workshop to discuss 26 pages of a proposed ordinance directed at both business and residential property owners. The proposal seeks to ensure that all town property is kept in good condition.
But some of the wording sparked protests. Especially galling was a section allowing town officials to enter homes and businesses if they had probable cause to suspect a violation.
The property owner could refuse admission, but the town could then get a court order to force admission.
For much of the evening, Marino tangled with town residents.
At times, he chided them for their attitudes and told them they should thank council members for trying to improve the town. He criticized news coverage, saying it was biased and failed to report the number of supporters of the ordinance. And he objected to residents' classifying the proposal as a form of Nazism.
By evening's end, the council seemed to back off some of the more controversial issues. Marino said he would redraft the proposal and have it ready for the council's January meeting.
The soonest a final vote could be held likely would be early February, in the middle of Kenneth City's election season.
Three seats on the five-member council — the mayor's position and two council slots — are up for grabs in the March 10 election.
Talk outside the council chambers Wednesday focused as much on finding candidates to run for the openings as the ordinance being debated inside the chambers.