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Mayor Menino: It’s time to dump the trash Mayor vows to clean up blighted neighborhoods, track deadbeat owners

Mayor Menino: It’s time to dump the trash
Mayor vows to clean up blighted neighborhoods, track deadbeat owners
By Jessica Fargen  |   Sunday, November 14, 2010  |  http://www.bostonherald.com  |  Local Politics

STANDING TALL: Mayor Thomas M. Menino stands in front of the property at 62 North Beacon St. in Allston, owned by Forrest D. Whitcher, who owes $19,125 in overdue fines.
Photo by Mark Garfinkel

Mayor Thomas M. Menino is waging war on “trashy landlords,” including some of the country’s biggest banks, who refuse to pay millions in fines for illegal garbage and dumping offenses that have become the scourge of some Hub neighborhoods.

“They cannot thumb their nose at their fines,” said Menino, who, armed with the “muscle’’ of a tough new law, will soon move to put liens on the properties of the worst scofflaws.

“This is about putting penalties on trashy landlords who drag down the neighborhoods.”

Six months into the new law, the city has issued “green tickets” for 48,000 violations and collected more than twice as much money as usual as officials try to eliminate blight and put a dent in the $4.9 million in outstanding fines.

The get-tough strategy includes:

• Identifying deadbeat property owners — 280 at last count — who will have liens placed on their properties in January, the soonest allowed by the new law. Those owners collectively owe the city $500,000. Menino calls the liens the “muscle behind the intention.”

• Sending out stern letters to 30 property owners, some of whom owe $30,000 and more, who are not covered by the law.

• Boosting collections to $379,797 since the law was passed in May, compared to $173,748 during that same time period last year, according to the Inspectional Services Department.

“We are going to hold them accountable,” said ISD Commissioner William J. Good III. “We expect people to be responsible citizens. It’s up to them to keep their property up and maintain it. In the past, there may not have been serious consequences. There are now.”

Some of the biggest offenders are banks, including Wells Fargo, which owes the city $60,000 in fines on foreclosed properties, more than any other entity, according to ISD records. The bank owns more than 100 properties in the city that have been cited for violations including graffiti and improper trash storage.

Wells Fargo spokesperson Jason Menke said the bank has reached out to ISD.

“We understand the city’s concerns,” he said. “In some cases involving foreclosure, property records may not reflect current ownership. We will follow up with the city as necessary to ensure any outstanding obligations are met.”

City Councilor Sal LaMattina, whose East Boston neighborhood is home to some of the properties, called it a “slap in the face” that the bank isn’t paying.

“They make a lot of money from working-class families and the least they should be doing is paying their fines and keeping up their properties,” he said. “That’s their responsibility and shame on them.”

Neighbors say the blighted properties are at best unattractive and at worst dangerous.

“It’s been a mess,” Allison Carroll, 39, said of the property at 6 Milford St., a brick townhouse in the South End with broken windows and a history of violations.

The owner, Robert E. Bonds, owes $17,235 in fines, according to ISD.

A man who answered the phone at Bonds’ South End home and would not give his name claimed residents dumped trash on Bonds’ properties and that a contractor performing work on the properties was responsible. Attempts to reach Bonds were unsuccessful.

In South Boston, local moms say an abandoned warehouse on West Third Street owned by Conticast Corp. of Ohio is a blight. Graffiti covers one wall and trash is piled in a corner.

“I don’t walk home that way. There’s not much light. There’s not much traffic,” said Debby Robbins, 29, who takes her daughter to a nearby park.

The warehouse owner, Conticast Corp., owes $30,045, according to ISD. A representative from the company could not be reached.

Even when the owners can be tracked down, they can be uncooperative.

“Don’t call me again,” Forrest D. Whitcher, who owns 62 N. Beacon St. in Allston, told the Herald when asked why he hadn’t paid $19,125 in violations.

Menino vowed to take property owners to housing court if they fail to respond to a lien placed on their property.

“We are going to use all the tools in our tool book to make sure those neighborhoods are clean,” he said.

Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/politics/view.bg?articleid=1296166

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