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LITTLE VALLEY – Over the last two months, residents of Olean have addressed the Common Council about deteriorating neighborhoods – and, in particular, slumlords.

During one meeting, residents of Ward 1 who complained about squalor learned from Olean Mayor Linda Witte that she had met with officials of the Cattaraugus County Department of Social Services, who said there is nothing the county agency can do to remedy the problem.

Witte said she still wanted to see some Social Services solutions in battling the slumlord problem.

But Social Services Commissioner Dan Piccioli last week said that was outside the scope of the agency.

“We cannot do that,” Piccioli told members of the Legislature’s Human Services Committee. “We have taken a beating on this issue, and it is time to set the record straight.”

“When Mayor Witte came to me, with a couple members of her administrative council,” Piccioli added, “she asked if we could implement some sort of inspection of a rental unit prior to a [Social Services] client taking residence, as well as possibly helping with oversight of the client in the rental – and after they leave, to ensure proper living conditions.”

“My answer to her was that we cannot perform those actions,” he said. “We are restricted by state and federal law in what we can do, what we can’t do, and what we may do. Our job is to establish eligibility for assistance.”

“We do have a list of landlords that we give to the clients. Our job is to allow them to find and make arrangements in gaining a place to live.”

In the case of the rental units, it is up to the client to find housing. There is no guarantee in receiving a specific unit, because landlords have the right to screen tenants, officials said.

A list of landlords in Olean was offered to Witte and her staff for review, Piccioli said.

“The list is a work in progress,” he said. “The more landlords we can add to it, the more alternatives that can be offered to our clients.”

The commissioner said his address to the committee was intended to clear the air of any confusion.