By Seth Daniel
Tough times at the city level aren’t going to stop the Health Department from aggressively enforcing quality of life issues this spring and summer.
Over the past few years, the department has been bolstered by several full-time inspectors who were able to target and ticket problem properties, abandoned properties and sanitation problems.
With cuts to the department this year and most likely next year, too, many wondered if the same aggressive nature would be possible.
This week, Health Agent Nick Catinazzo said it indeed would be the case and that his crews would be canvassing the neighborhoods starting on April 6.
“We will go through every street in the city within a two-week period,” he said. “We’ll start with Beachmont and Shirley Avenue and go down every street, looking for violations and following up on those violations to clean up the city.
“People are complaining of trash everywhere, and April is a good time to have everything cleaned up,” he continued. “If a place is a mess now, it’s likely to stay that way.”
Catinazzo said they will be particularly looking for outside trash (such as debris, furniture, etc.) in view, abandoned cars, unregistered cars on private property (residents are allowed one unregistered car per property), and vacant properties.
Tickets for such violations can range in price from $25 to $250, depending on the extent of the problem.
The biggest problem, Catinazzo said, is outside sanitation.
Many people put their trash barrels out too early. Residents can begin putting barrels out at 5 p.m. the day before trash day, or they just keep a very dirty property and don’t mow their lawn.
“Last year, we fined a record number of properties, and I see it the same way this year,” he said. “We have a lot of absentee landlords and a lot of vacant properties.”
He said they have targeted the Beachmont and Shirley Avenue areas in the past and found that very aggressive enforcement with fines has made a great difference.
“Certain parts of the city used to be worse than others, and so we had an inspector every day in Beachmont and Shirley Avenue,” he said. “Now, we can see a real difference there. When we start fining people and absentee landlords, they start cleaning up the property.”
He said they would also be looking for illegal apartments, especially considering the fatal fire in Quincy that had several illegal apartments that potentially caused the deaths of several people.
“We are aggressively enforcing illegal apartments, and people should know that what happened in Quincy won’t happen here,” he said. “However, there are so many illegal apartments that it’s hard to keep up. We get five to 10 complaints a week.”
Additionally, graffiti has become a major problem in the city over the last year, with many private and public properties strewn with vulgar and ugly spray painted markings.
While it may not be totally fair, Catinazzo said they would be enforcing the graffiti ordinance, which requires property owners to pay to have graffiti cleaned up within a two-week period.
If it isn’t cleaned up, it could result in a fine of up to $250.
Catinazzo said his department is now closed on Fridays, so inspectors cannot make their rounds. He said it leaves a hole in enforcement from Friday to Monday, but they would work hard to keep up.
“We’ll definitely get it all done, but at a slower pace, because right now, our Inspectional Services Department [ISD] is off on Fridays,” he said. “So Friday, Saturday and Sunday, our ISD issues go uninspected…We have to wait on a lot of things that come up until Monday.”
Catinazzo said they are sending out a tough message, but they will work with anyone who is having a problem keeping their place up.
“We’re willing to work with people,” he said. “If elderly people or others are having trouble keeping up their property, there are resources to help them, and we can put them in touch with those resources.”