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Massena village board considers ‘public nuisance law’

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MASSENA - Village officials will consider adopting portions of a “public nuisance law” to help address local issues of crime, illegal drugs and blighted properties.

At the village Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday, Mayor James F. Hidy presented to the board information on a local law used by the city of Rome. If a “public nuisance” like the sale of illegal drugs or firearms, gang activity or assaults occur at a property more than once, the village could issue a court summons under the law for civil action.

“In light of everything that’s been going on - with drugs and a lot of crime activity out of rental homes - this could help address those issues affecting our community,” Mr. Hidy said. “This law blankets the whole idea of what we’re trying to do.”

If the building’s tenants or owner are found responsible for the continuing problems at the property, they could be fined. If the problems continue, the village could then issue a permanent injunction and control the building until the problems stop or are solved, Police Chief Timmy J. Currier said.

Mr. Currier distributed information on the law to village board members last October, and since that time the Massena Police Department has been reviewing the law, according to Mr. Hidy.

Mr. Hidy says Legislator Joseph A. Griffo utilized the laws successfully to improve life in Rome while he was mayor of that city. “(Mr. Griffo) had implemented this while he was mayor of Rome and he said it helped out tremendously,” Mr. Hidy said. “It helped address drug activity and made landlords more attentive to who they are leasing to.”

Board members expressed support for the law, saying it could be a solution to the significant issues of crime and blighted properties in the village.

“There’s not a neighborhood at this point in our community that doesn’t have one of these (properties) that they can cite right now,” Trustee Patricia K. “Trish” Wilson said. “So I think it’s a great thing to look at as a solution.”

Ms. Wilson suggested they study how the law was implemented in Rome to determine which aspects of the law were most successful and which aspects may not have been.

Trustee Albert C. “Herb” Deshaies said he believes the village already has many of the necessary tools to fight crime and blighted properties, with its existing building code and police department.

Partially agreeing with Mr. Deshaies, Ms. Wilson said that village officials should look out for overlap between the public nuisance law and the village’s existing building code.

“I also wonder what would we need to leave in from our existing code, what do we need take out or does this supersede everything?” Ms. Wilson said. “Are we rewriting or are we using some of (the public nuisance law) and some of what’s already (in the village’s building code)?”

Mr. Currier suggested the board keep Village Attorney Matthew H. McArdle involved throughout the process of writing the law, pointing out that any civil action taken by the law would be handled by the village’s attorney.

Village board members hope to have a resolution to adopt portions of the public nuisance law prepared within the next few months. Being a local law, the village board would first have to establish and then hold a public hearing before putting it up to vote.

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