Tag Archives: fires

Worcester news for you! … Dickens and (CDBG) demo!

First the fun stuff!

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pic: R.T.

From Doherty High School

Highland Street

December 7 and 8

Next week the Doherty Performing Arts Department will be presenting “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens

The show will be performed by more than 70 Doherty students, 1 Forest Grove student and 3 Midland Street School students!

We will also be performing an elementary school matinee December 7 for students from Midland, Tatnuck and May Street schools.

The bulk of the show will be performed by the Theatre 2-3-4 classes, with help from the Madrigal Singers and the Jazz Band.

The show starts promptly at 6:45 p.m. and tickets are a mere $5.

Hope to see you there.

Jim Fay
Theatre Director

********

Now the muckety muck …CDBG DEMOLITION GOALS, the process …

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Cece says: Can’t we all just chase string and cuddle?? pic:R.T.

From the City of Worcester …

FYI

(Rose has made some sentences bold.):

TO THE WORCESTER CITY COUNCIL

FROM THE WORCESTER CITY MANAGER

Re: Council Questions Concerning the Recommended Finance Item for Demolition Purposes

In response to the City Council’s questions regarding the recommendation to transfer 126 190 00 from and to various CDBG accounts to provide sufficient funding for anticipated project costs for the demolition of six buildings, please accept this report.

List of [the CDBG-demo] Properties:

11 Dixfield Road —The Estate of Amelia and Lincoln Crozier

15 Uxbridge Street The Estate of Rose Jordan

147 Belmont Street S. Paquette, Trustee of Belmont 147 Realty Trust

20 Alvarado ROLLO The Estate of Rocco and Lame Mercadante

18 Charlton Street Edilson Souza

89 Austin Street Iglesia Cristiana de la Communidad

The city has a responsibility to maintain safe neighborhoods. The demolition of dilapidated, dangerous or decadent buildings falls under that role.

Demolition of such properties is an eligible expenditure of block grant funds because one of the national objectives of the ONES program is the elimination of spot slum and blighted properties.

The annual block grant allocation includes a sum set aside for demolition of eligible properties.

The City [of Worcester] places a lien in the amount of the demolition expenses on the property by recording a lien in the Registry of Deeds shortly after demolition.

The lien is then included with the annual tax bill, just as any outstanding water, sewer charges and betterment assessments are included in the tax bills).

The city tax lien takes priority over any mortgages on the property.

Therefore, the bank or person taking a mortgage on a property subject to a demolition order, not the city [of Worcester], takes the risk that there will be no surplus value after the city lien is paid.

(In the case of tax exempt property, the demolition lien is committed to the treasurer who treats the property as taxable for purposes of either collection or foreclosure to satisfy the lien).

The city [of Worcester] uses two avenues to assess fines to property owners who fail to maintain their property in compliance with building, health and safety codes:

The first is the ” clean and lien” process whereby the city causes repairs to be made and then records a lien on the property for the amount expended.

This process is used to address emergency situations (no heat, imminent structural failure, etc.), where the property is in foreclosure, or, where the responsible party fails to appear in court.

This process is also used to clean weeds and trash from properties creating a nuisance to the neighborhood.

Secondly, the city fines property owners for code violations through the code enforcement/housing court process. That process involves a sequence of code inspections and enforcement orders, a referral to the law department for housing court action, the imposition of a preliminary injunction commanding that repairs
be made, and, if necessary, a series of court actions where the court imposes
fines on the owner to secure compliance and, failing that, the court will hold the owner in contempt and commit them to jail until repairs are made.

While properties with debilitating code violations can be condemned to demolition, properties without any pre- existing code violations, but which have
suffered substantial, structural damage due to fires are eligible for demolition.

(In fact, four of the six properties listed above are being demolished because of structural fire damage).

It would be fair to say that, in all cases, the property involved is “made safe” per order of the [City of Worcester] Code Commissioner.

This is typically accomplished by boarding windows and keeping people at a safe distance with fencing.

The policy in this program is to make every effort to save properties from
demolition through private rehabilitation.

There is usually a period of several
years between the recording of a demolition order and the actual demolition of a property.

Cases with extreme deterioration or fire damage move to the top of the list and, to the extent that funding sources allow, are demolished more quickly.

Except to determine the owner for purposes of the issuance and service of
orders, the city [of Worcester] does not perform periodic title examinations of properties condemned to demolition.
As noted earlier, the city lien takes first priority over encumbrances recorded both before and after the recording of the demolition
order. The economic risk falls substantially with the private financier.

Respectfully submitted,

Edward M. Augustus, Jr.
City Manager

YES to sprinkler systems for Worcester 3 deckers and buildings with 3 – 6 units! They save lives!

By Ron O’Clair

In a “white” paper released in May by the state Board of Building Regulations and Standards it was recommended to drop the existing Building Code Requirement to install sprinkler systems in buildings with 3-6 units when property owners decide to make improvements to the property, and that improvement reaches a threshold of 50% of asset value or higher.

That as far as I can determine from the sources I contacted for this story is the “trigger” that requires a property owner to install a sprinkler system in any building that does not have one that contains 3-6 units of housing.

This move to drop the requirement is being touted as a way to increase the amounts of affordable housing in Massachusetts.

Sprinkler systems cost anywhere from $15,000 – $30,000 for installation in existing 3 floor buildings, depending on whether or not a new water main has to be brought in from the street according to whether or not there is sufficient water pressure to support the new installation.

One developer I contacted for this story paid $15,000 alone for the new water main needed to sustain a sprinkler system due to the distance from the street, which determines overall cost of the water main installation.

Proponents of keeping the existing law in place such as William Breault of the Main South Alliance of Public Safety see the issue one way, and many developers see the issue another.

This author feels that from a safety standpoint, absolutely requiring sprinkler installation during renovations would help prevent death and injury to occupants in the event of a fire.

Many of Worcester’s old three decker houses have antiquated electrical systems that were designed for far less of a load then they currently use. Air conditioners, huge flat screen televisions, computers, refrigerators etc. all draw a large amount of electricity from the existing wiring. What originally was designed for three families at the time of installation has become outpaced by modern convenience, and what is happening in some cases is that landlords are renting out rooms individually to maximize profits, each of whom will then have their own refrigerators, air conditioners, televisions, etc. – placing an overload on the existing electrical system, which can result in a fire.

I remember a case of that happening on Providence Street, #75 I believe it was, when someone on the third floor received a huge power hungry flat screen television for Christmas, plugged it in to an already overtaxed electrical system, and caused the house to catch fire. I don’t recall there being any deaths or injury, but there certainly could have been.

What price do you put on a human life?
Would installation of sprinkler systems help to save lives?

One developer was quoted as saying: “Smoke detectors save lives, sprinklers save buildings”

In my own experience here at the building in Main South I have been responsible for as the Building and Property Superintendent, one of the former tenants, Kevin C. who was in room #1 at the time, came home inebriated and fell asleep on his bed with a lit cigarette. Lucky for him, he was under the sprinkler head, as he slept through the wailing smoke detector, and it was only when the sprinkler head had activated and the water started flowing that he was able to wake up and realize that he was about to die.

In that particular case, absolutely the sprinkler system saved his life. It also saved the building, as the fire was contained and did not spread out of control.

Should the requirement be modified, or eliminated in an attempt to increase availability of affordable housing?

Kevin C. owes his life to the fact that sprinklers were installed in the rooming house he then occupied. Had he resided in a place without them he would have undoubtedly perished in the fire he himself started in his drunken condition.

Like it or not, that was certainly a case of the sprinkler system saving his life.
Safety must come first, above any other consideration. It will certainly not increase the amount of affordable housing if left in place, as costs incurred by property owners ultimately are factored into the amount they charge for rent, but I must ask again, how much is a human life worth in dollars and cents?

To ban or not to ban

By Edith Morgan

Is there anyone still left who does not know about the health risks of smoking cigarettes? The dangers of nicotine addiction? The danger to children breathing in second-hand smoke and the risk of fire from discarded cigarette butts?

I am assuming that, amid all the test-taking practice in our schools, our students are still yearly warned about, and informed of, the risks in smoking. So our young should be properly informed and hopefully convinced that smoking is not only not cool, but stupid, dangerous, and unhealthy.

It is always a temptation to ban things, to restrict their use, to try to keep the addicts away from their various fixes – and to make their use illegal, with stiff penalties , fines, and jail. And how well has that worked, and how well is it working. And how well will it work in the future?

If our children were getting a good dose of history, they would all know how disastrous our experiment with Prohibition turned out: Not only did it not reduce the amount of alcohol/drunkenness, but it made criminals of many people, and created powerful and rich crime syndicates. Ordinary citizens were making “hooch” in their bathtubs, and addicts were driven to crime and prostitution to pay for their illegal drinks.

We have had the same experience with other drugs – legal or illegal – and new ones are added to the list continuously. Our world is full of natural and artificial substances which are mind-altering and/or addictive , at least for some people. And addicts will always be driven to find more such substances – in the woods, the fields, from their doctors, from their friends – anywhere.

Every so often I ask, out of  the blue, of anyone I meet “If heroin (or whatever drug is in the news at the moment) were available everywhere at a nickel a bag, how much would you buy?” The answer is always NONE. We all can purchase so many things, and don’t do so. But most of us are not addicts, and are not attracted to drugs, no matter what the price.  But true addictive persons are a different story, and the price is irrelevant: they will pay whatever it costs, to get their hands on their fix of choice.

From so many years of experience as a school teacher, I have noticed that some children are at risk of becoming addicts: they form habits quickly, which may be an advantage in some areas, but which makes addiction much easier.

If we could identify those students, as early as first grade, or even Kindergarten, and warn them, watch them, and teach them how to resist, I believe we would be well on the way to reducing our number of active addicts.

We will never be fully free of addictive persons – but at least we can give them the weapons to resist and make better choices. It beats punitive measures, which have shown time and again that they do not reduce the number of addicts in the population, but are so very costly.

Re-open the Providence Street Fire Station

By Sue Moynagh

It is hard to believe that the Providence Street Fire Station has been closed for almost three years. Back in 2008, some of us fought to keep it open because we were concerned about the safety of our neighborhood. The station was officially closed and reopened as a UMass Memorial Health Care EMS station in 2009.

What has happened since then? We have had a number of serious fires in the Union Hill/ Vernon Hill neighborhood, several on Arlington Street alone. Would it have made a difference if the station were still open? I think so. I also believe it is time to look at opening the fire station again.

When the station closed, there were no immediate problems. In 2010, however, there were two major fires in the Vernon Hill neighborhood, less than a week apart. On September 16 of that year, a fire broke out at a three- decker onWest Upsala Street. The heat from that fire scorched neighboring buildings and cars, and, since then, the building has been demolished and a new house occupies the site. On September 22, another fire occurred on Lund Street.

Responding fire trucks were delayed at both fires.

This year, there has been a run of major fires, starting with 56 Upsala Street on July 25. Arlington Street runs parallel to Providence Street and serious fires occurred right behind the old fire station. Recently, a fire claimed the life of firefighter Jon Davies at 49 Arlington Street. Adjacent to that site is another fire- damaged building at 51 Arlington Street. Both buildings are marked with the “X” that identifies buildings that are no longer safe to enter in event of another fire. Both buildings are behind the old Providence Street fire station.

On December 26, a fire broke out at 71 Harrison Street in the evening around 6:00 p.m. This house is very close to my home, so I also heard the arrival of fire trucks around 4:00 a.m. the next morning, when the fire broke out again. I decided it was time to voice my concerns about the need for added fire protection in this part of the city.

The Union Hill/ Vernon Hill section of the city has many old buildings, many over a century old. Some have been upgraded and are well- maintained by landlords. Unfortunately, many are not kept up and some are empty of tenants. You can see the dry- rotted wood on porches when you walk by. You can often hear smoke alarms beeping because the batteries are running down. Some of the tenants don’t care about disposal of trash or storage of flammable materials, or may not know how to do these things properly. These conditions can contribute to rapid spread of fire throughout a building, and it is essential that fire fighters are able to respond as quickly as possible when these fires occur.

Every minute counts – especially when lives are at stake.

There is another issue which could also impact the movement of emergency vehicles into the neighborhood. Because of the CSX railroad expansion on lower Grafton Street, part of Coral Street will be closed to two way traffic. This route is important for access of fire trucks to the Union Hill neighborhood. Making Coral Street one- way to traffic may not make much difference in moderate weather and under light traffic conditions, but how will trucks from the Franklin Street station maneuver on ice- coated streets, around downed tree limbs and through stalled traffic in severe winter conditions?

If the Franklin Street station trucks cannot respond to a fire, trucks from the station at McKeon Road are often summoned to these fires. If the trains are crossing McKeon Road, traffic can stop for almost an hour, and emergency vehicles obviously cannot respond by this route. This happens often enough to be a source of concern. We need a fire station in the neighborhood where these fires occur.

I hope that the city officials reconsider re-opening the Providence Street Fire Station, and also the necessity of keeping Coral Street open to two- way traffic. These fires have demonstrated the need for additional protection in the Union Hill/ Vernon Hill area, as well as prompt response and easy access when fires occur. Let’s not wait for another tragedy to wake up and take action.