| G. Michael Dobbs
SPRINGFIELD – City officials in the Police Department and Code Enforcement recently teamed up to address two distressed properties in the city.
The Police Department’s Ordinance Squad as well as inspectors from the Housing, Electrical, Plumbing, Zoning and Housing departments found emergency violations at 49 Draper St. and 39 Forest Park Ave.
Deputy Chief of Code Enforcement David Cotter wrote in a follow-up statement, “[the police and city officials] converged all at once on 39 Forest Park Ave. to find several emergency violations including a numerous amount of exterior violations, with the police support with interpretation we were also able to enter the dwelling on the second floor. There we found a Mexican family living with space heaters – no smoke or Co2 detectors, electrical wiring violations and an illegal third floor unit that had dead bolt locks on all the doors. This was considered a firetrap and we handed the occupants smoke detectors to install while waiting for their condemnation paperwork was being processed. The owner was listed as living on the property, but was really somewhere in the Bronx, NY. There were two unregistered motor vehicle where the plates were run by the officers and cited by Code Housing.”
Cotter continued, “Next up was the property located at 49 Draper St. that was reportedly attached to a shooting that left about 23 shell casings in this Forest Park neighborhood. It was visited by Mayor [Domenic] Sarno and reported to us through not only his office, but through the SPD Squad Officers, C-3 Officer Chad Joseph and also Sgt. John Delaney. This was a sure sign that the cooperation between our departments all the way to the mayor is doing everything we can to attack the violent dwellings that are harboring this criminal element. Although the violations were different the results were the same. When officers and inspectors left this dwelling the occupants were informed that the entire dwelling was going to be condemned and the other absentee landlord was responsible for the relocation of those occupants. There were doors nailed shut, busted windows throughout, busted doors, temporary wiring, no smoke or CO2 detectors. Gas and Electric service shut off to the second floor, rubbish and trash all over the exterior, common areas and basement, creating a heavy fire load.”
Cotter explained to Reminder Publications, “every condemnation is different.” The action taken by the city is matched with research work, he explained, to determine the ownership of the buildings in question.
When families are involved as tenants Cotter added that caseworkers for the Housing Department as well as the Department of Transitional Assistance are called in to provide emergency care for the family.
The city also brings the issue of the building to Housing Court to try to address the problems. Cotter said if the owner or his or her bank representative doesn’t appear, the city would then try to have a receiver appointed to bring the property into compliance.
“Basically this is our plan every time we go to a condemnation,” Cotter said. He added that just because a building is condemned doesn’t mean a family is forced onto the streets.
Sarno released a written comment on the actions at the two addresses, “Thank you for your brave and dedicated efforts. I was on site this past Friday late afternoon/early evening at 49 Draper St. and spoke with residents who were concerned and very appreciative of our overall efforts. Keep clearing them out. Our residents deserve quality of life. Stay safe and God Bless.”