PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Better keep up with vehicle inspection stickers or you could be soon be breaking city code.
Mayor Linda Tyer has put forth a petition that adds language to the junk vehicle code saying any vehicle without a valid state inspection sticker would be illegal to store on a property after 48 hours. The petition went before the Ordinance and Rules Subcommittee on Monday and with no discussion, the petition was approved to go back to the full council.
According to City Solicitor Richard Dohoney, the Fire Department has had issues in the past trying to cite property owners for storing junk cars. The city code had prohibited owners from keeping "in the open or allow to stand on any premises, public or private, for a period of more than 48 hours, any abandoned, wrecked, junked, dilapidated, nonoperating or unregistered motor vehicle" unless that person has a junk dealer license.
But, the law didn't place any restriction on a vehicle that may still be registered and running but with an expired or invalid sticker.
Dohoney said the addition of "or a motor vehicle without a valid state inspection sticker" gives the Fire Department the authority to cite based on that basis as well. He said the citations are usually given to property owners storing multiple junk vehicles on the property. Citations for violating the junk ordinance are $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second, and $300 for the third.
When asked, Dohoney did say that with the language, if a resident didn't get a new inspection sticker on time, after 48 hours on the property it would be an illegal vehicle.
It's not likely that the Fire Department would be issuing citations in such a circumstance. Fire inspectors have said the primary goal would be to educate property owners first and citations are a last resort. And it isn't likely that the inspectors would be looking around the city for stickers on just a car or two in a driveway.
Nonetheless, to stay within city laws, those inspection stickers still need to be valid.
The change is small but it isn't the first time this year that the ordinance has been in play. The Licensing Board ruled in January that Pearlman's Recycling didn't need any additional licenses to buy junk cars — despite the Fire Department saying it did.
The scrapyard has a junk dealer's license but not an auto dealer's license. The company purchases junk vehicles at its Pittsfield location and then transfers the vehicles to a separate entity — Eastern Vehicle Recycling out of Westfield — with the same owner. In Westfield, the vehicles are parted out and resold.
Fire inspectors brought them before the Licensing Board for buying and selling used vehicles without a vehicle dealer license. But, the board ultimately determined that it was not breaking state laws because the parts weren't being sold from the Pittsfield location since the purchases were for junked vehicles that the scrapyard's license covered and the vehicles are not the primary business.
In 2015, the junk vehicle ordinance led to charges being brought against former mayoral candidate Craig Gaetani, who was accused of threatening a woman in the Fire Department's inspection bureau regarding a case of junk vehicles. In that case, he allegedly called asking the department to remove junk vehicles he claimed were illegally parked on a property he owns and the conversation got heated — which led to criminal charges.
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