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The city's first Mayor Albert C. Houghton and its council were presented to the City Council on Tuesday.
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Mayor Joseph Bianco is in the center spot in this council roundup from the 1970s.
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Historical Society members Gene and Justyna Carlson and Charles Cahoon, right.
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The new City Council holds its first regular meeting of 2016.

North Adams May Push Landlords to Act Against Drug-Dealing Tenants

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Councilor Keith Bona explains his idea of pushing landlords to deal with tenants involved in criminal activity.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city may begin notifying landlords of tenants' criminal behavior — and possibly hold them liable.

A communication by Councilor Keith Bona urging the city to look at ordinances that at least would require notification to landlords of police raids or arrests up to the potential of fines and forced evictions was referred to committee at his request.

"My family has always been in the business of renting property so I'm not looking to throw landlords under the bus," he said. Rather, he believes that notifications of bad behavior, particularly drug dealing, would help landlords who may not live in the city or otherwise be unaware of police actions.

"They may never know it happened," Bona said. "Sometimes, just getting a letter saying this happened, I would hope they would say, they don't want those tenants."

The councilor said he had looked lawsuits and some ordinances from other communities, citing one from Buffalo, N.Y., that specifically addresses drug use and grounds for eviction.

The Buffalo ordinance forces the landlord's hand in evicting tenants for drug use or trafficking; allows two or more convictions in one year to be used as presumptive evidence, and levies fines up $5,000.

Bona said such ordinances may put the onus on landlords to deal with drug-dealing tenants but also gives them an out in that they can blame the city when having to face tenants they may be afraid of. It also speaks to the safety concerns of other tenants who may be living in a building where drugs are being dealt or used.

"There's different levels of where we can go with this, but minimally landlords show know what's happening on their property," he said.

The proposal was referred to the Public Safety and General Government committees.

The council also recommended to the General Government Committee the new Rules of Order. City Councilor Lisa Blackmer made the motion, pointing out the rules had gone to committee the last time the council had changed guidelines for the hearing of visitors.

Councilor Keith Bona submitted an amendment to the rules that would limit visitors' comments to agenda items, give them four minutes total, and allow officials during the agenda item to respond with "factual information that may correct or dispute information."

The council welcomed some of its predecessors back into council chambers on Tuesday. Five sets of photographs of past councilors and mayors, including the city's first Mayor Albert C. Houghton, have been hung up.

Four of the images were presented by the North Adams Historical Society, represented by Charles Cahoon and Gene and Justyna Carlson.

Cahoon said the photographs had been on loan to the society, the one of Houghton and the first council from the Barrett administration, two from former City Clerk Maryann Abuisi and one from a private donor. Current City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau had asked if the images could be restored to City Hall.

"We're delighted to have them back here where they belong," Cahoon said, adding that the society had carefully scanned them to retain copies.

A proposal for to designate an economic incentive area for the Greylock Mill and an accompanying special tax assessment was postponed at the request of Mayor Richard Alcombright.

The mayor said the mill's developers wanted to go over the development figures and criteria in the special tax assessment. He anticipated bringing it back before the council in March with minimal changes.

In other business, the council:

Adopted at second reading changes in the compensation & classification plan regarding contract agreements with police and Department of Public Works public unions and non-union employees, and a new zoning ordinance affecting nonconforming lots and commercial properties in residential zones.

Adopted the annual bonding requirements mandated by state law fo rhte tax collector ($250,000), assistant tax collector ($62,500) and city clerk ($15,000).

Referred to the Public Safety Committee a letter from a constituent regarding the winter parking ban and lack of off-street parking to the Public Safety Committee. The mayor said the letter had been to his office and referred to the Traffic Commission for its Jan. 20 meeting, recommending the committee take the Traffic Commission's findings into account when it meets.

Approved a resolution supporting two State House bills that would require natural gas utilities to fix leaks in their lines at no cost to users 5-2 with Bona and Councilor Nancy Bullett voting against; Councilor Lisa Blackmer abstained. Councilor Ronald Boucher was absent.

Approved licenses to drive for Tunnel City Cab for Christine Appell, Tanya Cravish, Agnes Hillard, Arlene Palumbo, Jennifer Serre, MaryEllen Woodman and Sandra Whitney. However, councilors again pointed to issues with approving licenses for those with criminal records. One of the applicants had a felony conviction for fraud but the council can only reject those applicants with violent records. They agreed that the backgrounds of cab drivers needed to be addressed.


Tags: housing,   landlords,   

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