CHESHIRE, Mass. — Taking down a blighted building could cost the town thousands Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV told the Selectmen on Tuesday.
He outlined the procedure for the town to demolish a building the building inspector has deemed unsafe. This was in response to a concern raised by a resident at last week's meeting about the condition of the former Beechwood Nursing Home building and another property on Route 8 adjacent to Whitney's Farm.
"Identifying the (unsafe) property, identifying the owner. The building inspector talks to the owner and gives them a notice to make the property safe. Assuming the property owner doesn't do it, a Board of Survey is created. It consists of a professional engineer, fire chief, and an uninterested citizen," he said. "They issue a report, the Board of Selectmen hold a hearing whether to order the demolition of the building where the property owner is allowed to come in and present a plan to make the building safe."
St. John said depending on the board's ruling, the town may go to housing court to obtain an order to demolish the building at its own expense. The town would then attach a lien to the property so that if the property is sold, it could get paid back.
He pointed out that this process is lengthy, expensive and usually takes several years. He spelled out his plan moving forward for potential problem properties.
"Wasn't the Cheshire Inn about $60,000? It's not a cheap process. There are certainly a lot of houses that are more than just eyesores," he said. "I'll compile a list and share with the board what properties could be identified as problems and we'll go from there. I don't mean to sound cynical but everything comes down to the dollar."
The town had taken the nearly 200-year-old inn, also known as Tiffany Greens, for back taxes in 2011.The owner had tried to sell the property to a Dunkin Donuts chain but the deal fell through because of opposition from town leaders and some community members. It was demolished in 2013.
The old nursing home, not far from the inn and owned by the same person, had been targeted for demolition in 2014 to make way for a Dollar General store. Again, town and community leaders balked at a high-traffic venue near the South Street and West Mountain Road intersection, raising the same concerns about traffic congestion that had accompanied the Dunkin Donuts discussion. Dollar General pursued a new location a bit farther north, coincidentally across the street from where the Dunkin Donuts ended up.
The next Selectmen's meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 11, at 6:30 p.m.
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Cheshire Selectmen Eye Salary Increases in FY21 Budget
By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent
CHESHIRE, Mass. — The fiscal 2021 budget preparation dominated at Tuesday night's Selectmen's meeting.
Aside from reviewing the Board of Health and Council on Aging operating budgets, the board discussed at length what some members see as stagnant salaries for many town positions.
Town Administrator Edmund St. John IV recently undertook a salary study with input from the Massachusetts Municipal Association's Human Resources department. Chairwoman Michelle Francesconi feels Cheshire has fallen behind other similar communities in compensating it's employees.
"Based on feedback that we received at the town meeting last year, a concerted effort has been made by the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee towards improving the overall salary structure of our town. We have been undercompensating our employees, we do recognize that, and it's something we are looking to address," she said to the virtual attendees.