City Council voted 3-2 on Aug. 10 to ask City Manager David Beach to review the proposal and come back with further recommendations.
Seniors are a particular focus of the proposed program, called HomeSecure, though any resident away from their homes for extended periods could benefit.
“West U promotes aging in place and supports that through all the senior services it offers,” Council Member Lauri Lankford said during the Aug. 10 meeting. “This notification program that we named HouseSecure would also support aging in place and would be an attempt to eliminate one of the problems that can arise with aging in place.”
Details of the program need to be worked out, but ideas presented in the proposal to other members of City Council include allowing advance sign-up to participate, with semi-automatic triggering upon commencement of a medical absence, along with a procedure for the notification by the homeowner or their designee on the termination of the absence.
As presented in the proposal, the program would designate a city staff member to be granted right of access to a resident’s property during the period of absence, limited to the exterior. The program could also provide a method of notifying the homeowner or their designee of any conditions needing repair that are found.
Opinions on if West University Place should run and administer such a program were divided, with Lankford and Council Member John Barnes in support and Mayor Pro Tem Kevin Trautner and Council Member Ed Sobash against.
“I feel like this is something that should be handled privately and by homeowners,” Trautner said. “As it is, we have a code that addresses vacant homes. Staff has a lot going on, and we’ve got a particular burden on our one code enforcement officer. I just don’t think it's the government's role to handle this kind of private matter.”
Mayor Bob Higley voted in favor, allowing the measure to proceed.
“I think it is the function of these people that Beach has at his disposal to put a spike in it or to give it a green light and come back and say, ‘You know what? We’ve thought about it, and here’s how it works,’ or ‘Hey, we’ve tried it, and it don’t work,’” Higley said.
The city of West University Place will spend the next two months workshopping internally and with commissions and volunteer groups to determine the program’s feasibility.