11 Phillips Street
The Amherst Fire Department is getting serious about public safety. Well actually, they've always been serious -- but now they are getting deadly serious about public safety in a pro active way.
Or as my Irish mother used to say, "A stitch in time saves nine." And in this case it's lives that are saved.
On Monday in Eastern Hampshire District Court before Clerk Magistrate Bill Nagle, fire safety officer Mike Roy won a $1,040 judgement against a leaseholder at 11 Phillips Street, perhaps the most notorious Party House in all of Amherst. Owned, naturally, by the King of the Decadent Street, Stephan Gharabegian.
The house was being used as a "rooming house" with W-A-Y more than four unrelated tenants packed into the 10-bedroom abode. Once that was exposed, resulting in a town crackdown, the landlord -- Stephan Gharabegian -- padlocked six of the rooms.
But the occupants of the four remaining rooms have removed all the furniture and use the open space as a giant party room.
11 Phillips Street, interior view
And the kids engaged in Russian roulette by covering the windows with black plastic (which in a fire instantly gives off deadly fumes) and covering the smoke detectors with bags as well, probably so the cigarette or pot smoke does not set them off.
The most recent major structure fire that resulted in a death at Rolling Green Apartments last year could have been far, far worse if the smoke detectors had not done their job.
In fact, AFD responded a few days after the deadly fire for reports of an alarm sounding. Turns out smoke detectors from the damaged building had been thrown in a dumpster and some of them were still sounding the alarm.
Previously AFD would issue a $100 civil ticket and if you ignored it, they would have to take you to Land Court in Northampton. Now they will be issuing criminal complaints which could result in six months in jail.
Or most likely, as with this plea bargain case, the court converts it to a civil infraction with the $1,000 fine.
Complying with these common sense safety regulations is far less a hastle than dealing with District Court ... or planning a funeral.