|By G. Michael Dobbs|
SPRINGFIELD City Councilor Bud Williams will consult with the city's Code Enforcement Department on ways to put pressure on rental properties on King Street that have been the sites of loud and disruptive parties.
Williams chaired a meeting on Thursday with representatives from Springfield College, American International College, Western New England College, the Upper Hill, Outer Belt, and Hill-McKnight neighborhoods and the Springfield Police Department. Fellow City Councilors Dominic Sarno and William Foley also attended.
What spurred the meeting, Williams explained, were incidences at 512-514 King St. two weeks ago involving college students and a "drinking binge" involving 15 to 20 high school students at a home on Weaver Street. The events were unrelated.
After the Weaver Street party was reported in the press, Williams received telephone calls from residents with complaints of other chronic party locations.
College students who rent off-campus apartments or houses and their parties used to be a larger problem in several city neighborhoods. That situation has dramatically decreased with the formation in 2003 of the Springfield City Alcohol Coalition Committee an alliance of the three colleges, neighborhood organizations, the Springfield Police Department and the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.
Walter Gould, president of the Outer Belt Civic Association, said that over the past five to six years there has been a drop in problem houses from 33 to six or seven in his neighborhood. Gould credited the decline to the combined efforts of the Springfield Police and Western New England College officials.
Dale Allen, director of community relations of Springfield College, said the College has not only financially supported additional patrols by Springfield Police in the neighborhoods around the College but also have invested in new on-campus housing for seniors. The number of Springfield College seniors living off-campus has dropped from 400 to 60 due to the new housing.
Allen said the College's goal is to "make it harder and harder" for seniors to live off-campus.
Adrienne Osborn, president of the Upper Hill Residents Council, said the neighborhood group has formed a partnership with Springfield College in working to address problems caused by students living in the neighborhood.
She added the group has had success meeting with one group of graduate students who were renting a house in the neighborhood and explaining how their parties can disturb their neighbors.
"We haven't heard a peep since," she said.
Williams praised the colleges for "working diligently with students"" to control the problem, but acknowledged it's an on-going situation,
"It's never going to go away [completely]," he added.