Friday, November 2, 2007

Mi Casa, Su Casa

So as predicted, the town found enough structural defects in Dave’s castle to bring down a skyscraper and probably by the close of business today will condemn his Happy Home. Funny how quickly the system works when hassling a Gadfly.

I don’t think the Springfield Republican reporter quite realized that Dave was serious when he said perhaps he would relocate into the Town Hall stairwell (after all, it is currently covered by a plastic sheet,)

This incident reminds me of another infamous Barry Del Castilho episode, now South Hadley’s $65/hour interim town administrator. Del Castilho desperately wanted a multi-million Override for Town Hall renovations (where his office was located) so he made a HUGE health issue of pigeon poop in the attic.

His secretary Laurie Benoit (whom he later married, after divorcing his then wife Linda) was posed for the Front Page of the crusty old Amherst Bulletin wearing a surgeon’s mask to filter out the supposed biological hazards.

And the two of them used a mail order air quality test kit (that at the time was about as reliable as a coin toss) and submitted samples from the back filter of an air conditioner (Gee, you think maybe that turned up a few beasties?)

Del Castilho then commissioned a $10,000 study by a reputable consultant to study the air quality in and around Town Hall. Hilariously, the study revealed the BEST air quality in the building was located in the attic because of the hot dry air up there (and all the poop was stuck to the floor so it didn’t go airborne).

And the WORST quality air was directly outside the building (called normal New England air in late Spring or Summer).

Along comes Dave Keenan suggesting volunteers simply clean up the poop for free and fix the broken window that the pigeons were using to enter the nice warm attic for the winter. The Town Manager, not wanting to grant Keenan a positive headline for selfless volunteerism, unequivocally said No.

Dave then crashed a Select Board meeting with a few friends (no, not me) dressed in space suits singing the song Ghost-Busters. Although changing the key word to Pigeon-Busters.

The town went on to spend over $100,000 to clean up the poop. And about then Dave stopped paying his taxes.

Town Meeting later overwhelmingly voted a $2.7 million Override with only two out of 155 or so voting No. I was one and Hill Boss the other. A week or so later Boss Hill wrote a Letter To The Editor of the crusty Bulletin saying he changed his mind and now supported the Override. It got walloped at the ballot box.

Town Meeting tried again; and again voters said take a hike. Town Meeting then used a loan to pay for it (thus bypassing voters) and by then it had grown to around $4 million. And even then a couple years later, Town Hall required a $200,000 more for roof repair and next week Town Meeting will be discussing how to pay another $600,000 for the current exterior repointing.

Only in Amherst.


dominique said...

Lest we forget, Mr. Keenan still owes DEP a cleanup and a fine of over $30,000. Details at the DEP website under Enforcement Actions - 2006.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, but notice they didn't come to his door with a full compliment of firepower in order to collect.

O'Reilly said...

It seems like a shitty deal that they'd have Dave come up with $72,000 in back taxes and LATER show up to condemn his place of residence.

What were the preciptating events that instigated the court order to inspect? Was there a complaint? Was it reasonable? Is the town just using it as an excuse to seperate Dave from the property or is there a real public interest in safety or public health that is rightly being served?

I think Dave's been tardy if not negligent in the soil cleanup but why the town wants to make him homeless is incomprehensible... unless there are some facts I just don;t know.

O'Reilly said...

Here are the money quotes:

"The town wanted the inspection because officials had noticed code violations when driving by the house and the town wanted to view the house before it conveyed title to the property back to Keenan at the end of the month, Masteralexis said.

Masteralexis said that
Weeks has determined that the house's structure is unsound because Keenan has cut out the trusses. He will be given 24 hours to repair it, he said, but the notice has not yet been written. He said that Weeks is afraid the house will collapse if it snows or there's a strong wind. As he faced eviction this summer, Keenan, who bought the house 10 years ago for $2,500, paid $63,243 to the town, including back taxes, 16 percent interest and the town's legal fees.

Weeks' "FEAR" notwithstanding, 24 hours is not a reasonable amount of time to fix the problem.

Secondly, who is responsible to fix the problem, the current owner, the Town of Amherst or the squatter who is scheduled to take posession at the end of the month?

From an outsider's viewpont, it sure looks like the town is doing what it can to postopne or derail the conveyance to the rightful owner, having paid his back taxes, interest, and the town's attorney fees.

The house needs repair and remediation. The trusses and the lack of an outside wall near the eaves are code issues. The smoke and CO2 detectors are safety issues.

Oddly, the town took the title when Keenan owned back taxes rather that placing a lein on the property. Title means ownership and the town is responsible for code and safety remidiation unless they can reasonably demonstrate that the code violations were perpetrated by the "squater".

I think the town's attorney may have fucked up by taking title rather than placing a lien and now they're trying to cover their mistake by intimidating citizen Keenan.

If I were Keenan , I'd find a good attorney, get a temporary restraining order and determine if, in fact, the town is responsible for remiation of the code violations.

chris said...

In other words Mr Keenan would like the Amherst taxpayers to fix up his house before it is released back to him.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, I guess he does. But the town also assessed his humble abode at over $200,000 for the past five or six years (and it has been this crappy for the past ten years) and Keenan recently made good on that tax valuation dating back to year one.

Currently the town owns it. THEY sent in the inspectors, who found violations (some of them requiring IMMEDIATE remediation).