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Remains of burned house hot topic

December 28, 2011
WESTFIELD — A house destroyed by a fire this summer is currently a pile of rubble on North Portage Street in the Town of Westfield, but the house was found to have asbestos which has complicated the whole issue of its removal.

Building and Zoning Code Enforcement Officer Jim Pacanowski was asked about the progress of clearing the demolished house off the property at the Westfield Town Board meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 7. According to Pacanowski, there were people attempting to help the property owner get the funds she needed from her insurance company for the removal of the rubble, which because it contains hazardous waste would cost $16,000, but it was recently brought to Pacanowski’s attention that the property owner settled with the insurance company for $6,000.

At this point, the Town has few options; it could cite the property owner and take her to court or it could pay for the removal itself and put a lean on the property which would have to be paid before the plot could be sold. However, if the town decided to go with the second option, if the property owner decided not to sell, the town would not receive taxes from the lot and would not get reimbursed until she did decide to sell.

Town board member David Brown commented that what does not make sense to him is the property owner would get the insurance money, but the town would have to pay to clean it up. Deputy supervisor Ray Schuster was worried that if it is done for one property it will be expected by others going forward.

Town board member David Spann asked if asbestos were an issue with the demolished remains as they sit now and Pacanowski said if the Department of Environmental Conservation saw it the way it is, the property owner would be subject to fines.

Town Supervisor Martha Bills said she has heard a lot of concern about this property and Brown said his preference would be to start seeking legal action and put things in writing. Schuster said it is time to start giving the property owner time limits.

Bills asked Pacanowski to find out what the property owner’s intentions for the plot are before beginning legal steps.

Pacanowski, who has brought up similar issues of abandoned property to the Westfield Village Board, suggested maybe both boards need to start putting money in their budgets to deal with this issue.

“It’s part of our economy,” he said.

Since the meeting was held on the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, a moment of silence was held for those who died that day.

Westfield Historian Marybelle Beigh spoke to the board about a recent idea she had to turn her current Parkview Ice Cream Parlor into a community center. In some of her research, she discovered the location had been a community center in the 1970’s and Beigh said she envisioned it as a place for groups to gather, for people to find information, for a community bulletin board and more. She asked the board to think about her proposal and give her its feedback and suggestions.

Westfield Fire Chief Randy Edwards reminded people to be careful during hunting season, mentioning the death of Sheridan’s Fire Chief Jeffery D. Roberts, 33, who died in a hunting accident on Dec. 3.

The topic of hunting season also came up during public comment when audience member Janet Nass, who lives south of Route 20, expressed her unhappiness with the newly passed rifle law. Nass said she is worried for children and dogs in the area and added that with a rifle someone can get shot and the shooter does not even know it happened. Fellow audience member Claire Quadri added she hears shots being fired at night. Bills recommended contacting state representatives regarding their concerns as the new law is a state issue.

In regards to the water system issue in Barcelona, a meeting had been held with the engineer and the goal was to have a draft of the proposed project by Dec. 12 and to then amend the plan that has been filed with the United States Department of Agriculture. In addition, Bills was asked recently if the town had any shovel-ready projects and she brought up the Barcelona project and even got a call back, so the possibility exists for another funding source.

Finally, the town passed one resolution to transfer end of year funds and another to waive any required permit fees which would have been applicable for those impacted by the recent tornado damage. This waiver will last for net next 12 months.

“Every little bit helps,” Edwards said.

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Article Photos

Photo by Jenna Loughlin
The demolished remains of a house on North Portage Street that burned down this summer was a hot topic at the Westfield Town Board meeting on Dec. 7.



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