OSWEGO, NY – A group of city officials got a glimpse of the good, bad and the ugly on Oswego’s eastside Wednesday.
Second Ward Councilor Mike Myers headed up the tour of several neighborhoods in his ward, on the north and south side of Bridge Street.
Mayor Tom Gillen, First Ward Councilor Fran Enwright, Seventh Ward Councilor (and Council President) Ron Kaplewicz joined him for the informational tour.
Also participating was City Engineer (and Zoning Administrator) Tony Leotta, Director of Building and Safety Code Enforcement Neal Smith and (briefly), Tourism Director Fred Crisafulli.
The trek originated in the lower level of the Mid-Town Parking Lot.
The structural condition of the site was a concern for the councilors.
As the group walked through the different neighborhoods, they pointed out properties that were concerns and those that were well-cared for by their owners.
“You can tell which ones are owner-occupied,” Smith said indicating a nice looking house with a manicured lawn and flowers.
He also pointed out some rental properties that were in good condition.
“That is a rental property. (The landlord) did a wonderful job renovating it,” Smith said at one stop. “You wouldn’t even recognize it from what it was originally.”
Some of the properties weren’t as nice, however.
“We were such a nice town. We didn’t anticipate this,” Enwright said referring to the many out-of-town owners of rental properities in the Port City. “We didn’t have the laws in place then to prevent it, and many people came in and bought up these homes just to make money and never bothered to care for them.”
He said the city needs to enforce the laws on the books to clean up the neighborhoods. The recent local law requiring landlords or their agents to live within 25 miles of City Hall is a good start, he added.
“Only the judge can fine people,” Smith noted. “We can issue an appearance ticket, but it’s up to the judge.”
The city, recently, has been rather successful in collecting fines from violators, usually around $500, he said.
Enwright suggested increasing the amount of the fine sought by the city.
Smith said the city does have the right to go on properties to cut the grass, take garbage away, secure the building “and we charge them for that. It’s not cheap; your basic grass cutting is about $130.”
“It’s been a mixed bag,” the mayor said of what he saw on the walking tour. “I’ve seen a lot of really good things and I’ve seen some sad things. You see how some of these old homes have fallen into disrepair it’s sad. And then, you see these other places, people are still putting money into them, making them look nice.”
“It’s nice that the people see us out here, see that we’re taking an interest in the ward. We want to see what is going on, where the needs are,” Myers said.
“There were some things that need to be tweaked,” Kaplewicz said, nodding toward Smith who had taken notes at various properties regarding problems ranging from tall grass to unlicensed vehicles to structural problems.
“This (walk) wasn’t for show,” Smith said. “There are some people who will probably be getting a letter in a few days.”
“We need to do more of this; we have to be proactive and stay on top of things,” Kaplewicz continued. “There are issues like these in all of our wards. We can’t let little problems become big problems.”
Walks will also be scheduled in various other wards, they said.