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Malone cracks down on dilapidated properties

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MALONE — One unsightly property has been cleaned up, the owners of a group of dilapidated properties are facing legal action, and there are many others on the list, according to village code officer Jim Haley.

Village attorney Kevin F. Nichols announced during a village Board of Trustees meeting last week that the village was reimbursed for having to fill in the basement cavity that was once beneath the apartment house at 15 Jane St.

The property is owned by Carmella Wanser and her son, Joe Wanser, who served as the property’s agent.

Mr. Nichols noted that an agreement was reached with Peter Dumas, the Wansers’ attorney, which noted that upon their paying the village $2,426.28, all charges against them regarding code violations were dropped.

“That’s excellent news,” said Mayor Todd M. LePine.

The house was demolished following a fire that gutted it last fall.

While the Wansers cleared away the debris after receiving payment from their insurance company, they did not have the basement hole filled in.

Mr. Haley said surrounding residents were concerned for public safety with the hole unfilled.

Though this matter was cleared up, Mr. Haley said there are many similar situations all over the village.

“One thing I think the community needs to understand is a violation of the code of the village of Malone is a criminal offense,” Mr. Haley said.

Hollywood Enterprises, a company based in California, could be facing penalties for three properties it owns: 9 Pearl St. — the former Cinema Plaza movie theater — 23 Duane St. and 14 Harrison Place.

“We want all three taken down and cleared up,” Mr. Haley said.

Mr. Haley said he spoke to one of Hollywood Enterprises’ representatives once on the phone, but the person did not know the buildings’ conditions and did not have plans for them. Other attempts to contact the company about the structures have been unsuccessful, he said.

The latest correspondence from the village to the company was a letter dated July 26. It gives the owner 30 days to fix the problems, after which time a fine of $500 per day will be assessed.

In addition, the village will seek compensation if it must demolish the buildings.

An engineering report was done on all three properties, and Mr. Haley said it probably would be the most feasible to demolish them.

Another property Mr. Haley said he is currently addressing is 73 Rennie St., which was filled with garbage.

“I witnessed myself dead animals inside,” he said to village trustees.

The trustees authorized Mr. Haley to hire architect Tim McCarthy to look at the property.

The property is owned by Francesco Bennici, who, according to the code office, resides in Montreal. Mr. Haley in June issued an accusatory instrument to Mr. Bennici that cites all the various code violations.

“I intend to bring him to civil court,” Mr. Haley told the trustees. He added later that day that he may bring other code violators, such as Hollywood Enterprises, to court if they do not respond to the code office’s notices.

Mr. Haley said there’s a whole process before this can happen, however, adding that Mr. Nichols came up with a checklist for him to fill out as he goes through different steps of the code law. This includes notifying the owner and the village Board of Trustees of the property’s condition and having the trustees set up a hearing for the owner to attend.

Mr. LePine and Trustee Hugh Hill said the work that the code officer and village attorney have done over the last few months has been a huge step.

“More has happened in the last three months than the last 10 years,” Mr. Hill said. “We’re further ahead than we’ve been before.”

In the end, Mr. LePine said, the work is all for the village’s benefit.

“We’re just trying to make the village look nice again,” the mayor said.

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