Hartford Looking Into Whether Owners Of Blighted Properties Received Proper Notification
Sites Were Later Cleaned Up By City
By JENNA CARLESSO
August 06, 2012
HARTFORD —— City administrators are investigating the possibility that some of the 37 private properties cleaned as part of an anti-blight effort did not receive proper notification of violations or citations.
The city is required to issue owners of blighted property a notice of violation and then a citation — typically a $99 fine — if the violation notice is ignored. In some cases, if property owners do not respond to either notification, the city will send a cleanup crew to address the violation. Cleanups are performed on properties with violations that pose a public health hazard.
David Panagore, Hartford's chief operating officer, said the city is trying to determine if all of the properties were issued a notice of violation and citation and if the notices were sent out in a timely fashion.
The investigation is part of an ongoing review of records from the private property cleanups and of staff involved in the cleanups.
The public works department has cleaned 37 private properties whose owners violated the city's blight ordinances and failed to correct the problems. But the city's license and inspection department, which has been responsible for tallying up the work and billing the owners, has records for just 13 of the properties cleaned. A department manager said he had not received information about the other 24 properties from the department of public works or the city's livable and sustainable neighborhoods initiative.
The 13 bills on file had not yet been sent out — even though some of the cleanups occurred as far back as five or six months ago — because of computer glitches and outdated invoice language, city officials have said.
License and inspection records showed that work on the 13 documented properties cost $16,936.42. But when asked by The Courant why some of the properties had been billed the same amount for different work, Edison Silva, the department's operations manager, said that the numbers had been miscalculated, and that the total cost should be $28,159.26. Work on the 13 properties was performed in January, February and March.
A review of the updated license and inspection documents showed that the work cost $27,571.86 in total.
Panagore said last week that information about four of the 24 remaining properties was being tallied up to prepare bills. In addition, he said, seven properties were verified as being cleaned, but the public works department could not find the work orders for them; five property cleanups were falsely reported; two cleanups were reported as complete, but city staff wasn't able to get access to the properties; information for two others was submitted but the properties weren't actually cleaned; three cleanups were reported but no actual work was done in the field; and one cleanup was done by a private contractor, meaning it was being handled outside of the neighborhoods initiative.
Panagore said the five false cleanup reports were made by a neighborhoods initiative staff member who no longer workers for the city.
City officials have reassigned the responsibility of tallying up the work and billing the property owners to the finance department. The license and inspection department will no longer be involved in that process, Panagore said.
"From a procedural point of view, license and inspection should not be issuing the bills," he said. "All of the information will be sent to finance, which will issue the bills after [the] corporation counsel makes sure everything is in order."
Additionally, Jonas Maciunas, who had supervised the neighborhoods initiative, was reassigned to the development services' Complete Street Program, which oversees streetscape projects, a city official said. Panagore has taken over as head of the neighborhoods initiative.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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