MERRILLVILLE | An attorney representing six local apartment complexes plans to challenge a new town ordinance.
"I believe it will be struck down as unconstitutional," attorney Christopher D. Oakes said.
The Merrillville Town Council on Tuesday voted 4-2 to approve an ordinance that will mean an annual registration fee for each rental unit as well as safety inspections on a per-complaint basis, which could mean additional costs.
Councilmen Richard Hardaway and Ron Widing cast the dissenting votes.
The measure will require landlords to register each rental unit they own. The town will charge an annual $100 registration fee for each unit.
Letters asking apartment landlords to register then pay fees will be sent in October.
Town officials estimate there are at least 2,300 apartment units in Merrillvile, Clerk-Treasurer Gene Guernsey said.
Funds generated would go to the Police Department, town leaders said.
Oakes and several others who spoke against the ordinance said they believe the town can't levy an apartment registration fee that goes to pay for police services.
"What is the cost to run the program?" asked Lynn Sullivan, president of the Indiana Apartment Association in Indianapolis.
Officials directed the question to Town Administrator Howard Fink, who said he didn't want to comment.
Fink said the fee is not just about apartment inspections; it's about public safety.
"That's a cost that is not factored in," Fink said.
Fink and Town Council President Shawn Pettit said police respond to a number of calls at apartment complexes.
Merrillville is short about 16 officers, Police Chief Joseph Petruch said.
Pettit said, "We have to find revenue. ... This town is short of money."
Kevin Donohue, executive vice president for Equity Property Management in Merrillville, said apartment tenants will move out of town when faced with increased costs.
Donohue said the fee will lead to a loss of town revenue, including from the school district.