by Susan Mikula Campbell
Public hearings at Monday's Wheatfield Town Board meeting brought a crowd of neighbors demanding something be done about abandoned properties at 2488 Reynolds St., and 7464 Townline Road.
The hearings were extended to 7 and 7:15 p.m. at the board's next meeting on Monday, July 25, after which the board is expected to approve demolishing at least the Townline Road property.
Joe Catura, building inspector, gave reports on both properties.
The Townline Road property was boarded up after a 2010 fire. The owner has agreed to cleanup the property twice, but has said he was waiting on insurance payment and has not taken action, Catura said. He said that the building is in "pretty rough shape" and recommended the town take the necessary steps to begin the demolition process.
Next-door neighbors to the building reported shards of glass and broken metal in the yard and indicated concern that children might be able to get into the building's crawl space and not be able to get out.
One neighbor said she saw raccoon prints going to and from the house in the snow during the winter.
"Who knows what else is living in there," she said.
The owner will be served notice of the upcoming hearing and the town's official stance that the property is dangerous and cannot be repaired.
"We've gotten many stories (from the owner), but no action," said Supervisor Bob Cliffe.
The Reynolds Street property is off Sy Road in Bergholz and has been vacant about two years. The owner was in the process of remodeling the house when it was abandoned. For the most part, the building is secure and is apparently structurally sound, Catura said. There is about four or five feet of water in the basement, but no mold is apparent.
"I've been here for 60 years and I've got to live next to this?" one resident complained. "If I wanted to look at that, I'd live in the city."
The board received a petition signed by 64 neighbors asking for immediate action.
Councilman Art Gerbec said he had spoken with a representative of the bank that held the mortgage and was told the bank has charged off the property because it didn't think it could get any money out of it.
Because taxes are current, the town can't legally consider it an abandoned building for at least a year, Cliffe said.
"Basically, he (the owner) got away with murder. At this point we can't go crashing in there with a dozer," Gerbec said. "We're not saying it's right, we're doing the best we can to remedy it within the guidelines of the law."
The board discussed getting a legal warrant so the basement can be pumped and checked for mold and damage to the footings, which would indicate a safety hazard and possibly allow quicker action.
In other matters:
•The board approved a five-year bond issue of up to $225,000 for a new roof, two doors, air conditioner and chimney at the town's Water/Sewer Department and authorized bidding on the project.
•Arlene Mante, senior citizen director, said donations of clothing and toiletry items for Jammies for GIs may be dropped off at the Wheatfield Community Center on Church Road from 9 a.m. to noon Monday to Thursday. On July 29, the seniors will help pack the items into a truck to be escorted by the American Legion Riders to Bethesda, Md.
•Rich Donner, water/sewer director, reported that his crews are beginning to flush hydrants and residents may see a little discolored water for a day or two in areas where they are working.