OLEAN – The Common Council on Tuesday agreed to add funds to a budget line to deal with a city house on North Fifth Street is infested with cockroaches.
The problem of staying ahead of neglected properties also prompted the Council to hire a part-time employee to do routine upkeep in the future.
The budget’s safety inspection line will receive $4,450 from the demolitions budget line to cover costs run up over the summer months.
At the beginning of the summer, the house that had been previously cited for code violations had to be treated, costing the city taxpayers an initial $950 on a line that only starts each year with $6,000. That first treatment didn’t work to the level city officials would have liked. The second treatment added $500 to the bill. Luckily, the third and fourth treatments were done at no charge to the city.
“The demolition line is funded with $30,000 annually,” Mayor Linda Witte said. “To date, we haven’t used anything out of that line. It makes sense to use it.”
The funds in the safety inspection line also pay for lawn mowing services when residential grass gets too tall or sidewalks are not properly maintained. The funds that are spent are added to the tax bill of the property owner.
Traditionally, in the case of foreclosed properties that were not maintained, the amount spent would be placed as a lien to Cattaraugus County, according to Witte. That can no longer happen, according to a letter from the county, she said.
“We can no longer do as we have in the past,” she told the Council. “The only things we can be reimbursed for are water, sewer and solid waste removal.”
The situation has prompted Public Works Director Tom Windus to take a look at hiring a part-time person to go around the city to take care of the properties as needed. That person would also take care of grass and snow removal at city-owned properties, such as the Bartlett House, a museum.
Currently, the city pays contractors for that work, some of whom can charge as much as $200 per lawn.
“You have to keep in mind, by the time we go to take care of these violations, it has come to a point where the contractors have to use heavier equipment,” Codes Officer Edward Jennings said.
“We go in and ticket them. Then we have to give them five days to take care of the grass. That equipment breaks and has to be maintained. It is going to cost us.”
Windus said it would be cheaper for the city to hire a part-time employee to take care of the situation.
The resolution was approved by a 6-0 vote. Alderman Matthew Keller was excused for the night.
The Council’s next meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct 22 in the courtroom of the Olean Municipal Building.