Corbin H. Crable
[email protected]
It is uncertain how last month’s reduction in force (RIF) for the city will affect action the Gardner City Council will take on potentially unsafe and dangerous structures in town during the coming months.
When then-Community Development Director Fred Sherman presented more than 20 potentially unsafe structures to the council last fall, it was decided that the council would take action on them in phases – the structures that posed the most immediate danger, for instance, would be dealt with first. The council deemed five of those structures unsafe last spring, but it is unknown when action will be taken on the remaining structures.
They likely will be tabled until the city can reassign duties related to the Community Development Department, which was affected by the enactment of a reduction in force early last month. The RIF eliminated six of the nine positions in Community Development. Sherman was one of those affected by the layoffs, and Assistant City Administrator Melissa Mundt has stepped in and assumed the duties of Community Development director.
The remaining structures have not yet been officially declared unsafe and dangerous by the Gardner City Council.
Many of the remaining  structures are foundations that are open to the elements. The recent heavy rains that have soaked the area have filled those foundations and, with the addition of summer heat, the standing water bears the likelihood of becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes. City Administrator Stewart Fairburn on Wednesday said the property owners are responsible for pumping standing water and debris from the foundations, and that the city will contact the property owner if the foundations become full.
In addition, one local resident addressed the council at Monday night’s meeting and expressed a concern about the unsafe structures on Apache Street. Those properties have wrappings surrounding them that have grown mold, according to the resident, who said he has seen children playing near them.
“We’re probably at a point where we should determine the ownership of those properties,” Mayor Dave Drovetta told the council after the resident had spoken.
Fairburn said the city realizes the structures need to be dealt with, and that the city plans to tackle the issue as it reallocates duties among staff members.
“Since we’ve had the layoffs, it may be a while before we get back to that project,” he said. “But we want to take care of the rest of the things, so we can get these back on the roll.”
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