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Hellyer defends work amidst complaints

June 18, 2014 |

The Board of Selectmen met on June 17 in the hopes of putting to rest a number of complaints leveled against Building Inspector Daniel Hellyer by resident John Turner, left.
Reminder Publications photo by Chris Maza

By Chris Maza

EAST LONGMEADOW – Board of Selectmen Chair Angela Thorpe took Building Inspector Daniel Hellyer to task regarding a number of complaints raised by a resident regarding perceived failures to complete his duties as outlined in the town’s bylaws.

At its June 17 meeting, the board heard from Hellyer and resident John Turner, who has appeared before the selectmen multiple times alleging Hellyer did not take action upon reported zoning violations and did not properly communicate the results of findings for inspections he performed. Thorpe ultimately instructed Hellyer to reopen a number of complaints dating back to September 2013 in order to re-inspect the properties.

“To be candid, Mr. Hellyer, this has been happening for far too long,” Thorpe said. “Since I have been on the board a lot of time has been spent on this and I think it should be put to bed.”

Thorpe initially told Hellyer to go back to 11 properties where he documented he found violations in a Sept. 16, 2013, letter, but provided no documentation on when he re-inspected the sites and determined the issues had been resolved.

Turner asserted that, as the complaining party, he had a right to receive word when the inspector determines there is no violation in order to appeal. According to the town’s bylaws, a complainant has 30 days from the date notification of the inspector’s decision to appeal to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Thorpe agreed that Hellyer had not fulfilled his obligation to Turner by not informing him of his decisions and asked Hellyer if he didn’t notify Turner, how would he know when to appeal.

“I have a phone, I have email,” Hellyer responded.

As part of the board’s directive to Hellyer, he must send notification of his findings to Turner, the selectmen and the Planning Board. Once notifications are received, Turner would then have 30 days to respond with an appeal.

Turner also said he had filed more than 40 complaints to Hellyer that he claims the inspector never followed through on. Hellyer denied that charge, but offered to re-inspect all properties for which Turner filed a complaint.

Turner also said that in his dealings with Hellyer, the inspector was “unprofessional” and “demeaning.” Thorpe said that issue was one that would not be discussed in a public session. She directed Turner to write a letter if he had a complaint and the matter would be reviewed in executive session.

Hellyer initially asked for compensatory time off for the extra time spent addressing Turner’s complaints, but Thorpe objected, stating that these re-inspections, which may occur outside of normal business hours, are “the nature of [Hellyer’s] job description.” Hellyer retorted by arguing his contract states he is only supposed to work after hours for emergency situations. Thorpe said the board would have to discuss the matter further in an executive session.

Hellyer also said it would take approximately two weeks to perform the inspections. Thorpe was dissatisfied with that timetable and said that would also have to be discussed further.

Among the scheduling obstacles is the fact that Hellyer was approved for two weeks vacation from July 7 to 21, with Longmeadow Building Inspector Paul Healy filling in during that period.

Selectman William Gorman took issue with the board’s directive and with the zoning laws in general.

“I don’t think it’s right to ask Mr. Hellyer to go out on his own time,” he said, adding that as the board’s liaison, he has ridden along with Hellyer and found many investigations into reports yield no violations.

Thorpe lauded Gorman for performing ride-alongs, but said the rest of the board, the complainants and the Planning Board are not receiving the information he does during those.

“The needs to be a follow-up process to make sure everyone has the same information,” she said.

Gorman then took aim at the bylaws themselves, specifically ones regarding commercial vehicles, stating that they border on “discrimination” against those who “work with their hands.”

“There are people who have the right to make a living. Not everyone in East Longmeadow is a banker or a lawyer,” he said. “If you want to go somewhere where there are no trucks, go to Longmeadow. It’s not like East Longmeadow. This is a farm town; this is a working town.”

He suggested that the town should consider revising its zoning bylaws to become friendlier to working families.

The board also voted to approve the payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement between the town and Bay Path College for its new graduate studies building located at the corner of Shaker and Denslow roads.

Diane Bishop, director of Assessing, explained that with the purchase of the land by the college, that property would come off of the town’s tax rolls, but Bay Path came to them with a plan to defray the lost revenue.

“It was Bay Path who contacted us and said they wanted to be good neighbors,” she said.

The PILOT states the town will receive $20,000 annually, plus $35,000 in “in kind donations,” such as scholarships. Once the building opens, the town would have access to certain facilities within it such as the conference room and the college would also make students available to assist in East Longmeadow Public Schools.

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