| Lauren LeBel
WEST SPRINGFIELD – In 2016, Mayor William Reichelt created the Blight Task Force in an effort to rehabilitate problem properties in the town of West Springfield. Since then, the task force has established compliance at nearly 100 properties.
According to Town Attorney Kate O’Brien Scott, the Blight Task Force consists of seven people, including herself, along with representatives from the Health Department, Building Department, Police Department and Law Department.
O’Brien Scott said the Blight Task Force meets monthly to put all their heads together and go over any complaints that they have received. When the task force is not meeting, they have an email group in which they try to reply to complaints within one business day to begin investigation.
The majority of complaints received by the Blight Task Force are from concerned citizens. In addition, O'Brien Scott said, “The police can see concerns, the Fire Department, [Department of Public Works] – they let us know.”
According to information provided by Reichelt, “Many of the problem properties are foreclosed, bank-owned properties. The Blight Task Force uses various methods of code enforcement to achieve compliance with existing laws and codes. While many properties are addressed through a phone call or letter to the owner, some of the foreclosed, bank-owned properties involve litigation through the Western Division of the Housing Court.”
If the town doesn’t receive compliance for rehabilitation, the Blight Task Force will file. O’Brien Scott said a lot of times, the owner will fix the issue before rehabilitation is necessary.
“The town doesn’t do rehabilitation ourselves unless it’s an emergency,” said O’Brien Scott. “We try to use different avenues to help.”
The Blight Task Force seeks appointment of a receiver by the court to take control and improve the property. The receivers are local contractors or property managers who are both approved by the court and experienced in correcting blighted properties.
Reichelt believes that correcting these property issues is a win for the entire community.
In the future, O’Brien Scott and the rest of the Blight Task Force are hopeful that they won’t be needed. “We are trying to rehabilitate as many properties as possible until they don’t need us,” she said.
For additional information on the Blight Task Force or to file a complaint, email them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.