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City takes emergency action on abandoned turn-of-the century home

Date: 6/25/2015

SPRINGFIELD – An abandoned turn-of-the-century home is the subject of emergency action taken by the city.

The three-family home at 37 George St. has been vacant for several years and is in foreclosure. What has concerned neighbors and city housing officials is the unsecured in-ground swimming pool on the property.

Geraldine McCafferty, the director of Housing, explained to Reminder Publications, that the Building Commission has issued an emergency order to repair the fencing to keep people, especially children, out of the large and overgrown backyard where the pool is located.

Neighbor Alicia Zoeller recently wrote to McCafferty about the problems at the house. “The house poses a significant fire hazard; the pool has water in it and is both unsecured and a mosquito swamp. People are repeatedly gaining entry for illicit purposes and the fence is falling into the sidewalk. This spring I saw a coyote leaving the wooded area,” she wrote.

According to city records, the house, which was built in 1906, currently has an assessed value of $152,000. The owner, Marjorie Moise, bought the property for $345,000 in 2006. She declared bankruptcy in 2014.

Moise was cited by the city for issues regarding the condition of the house and the yard as recently as last August, according to city records.

The inspection report read, in part, “Swimming pool has filthy stagnant water that is attracting and providing harborage for insects, mosquitoes, flies and other vermin that are carriers of West Nile Virus and other diseases. Pool must be drained, sanitized, and/or dismantled immediately, to avoid court action upon re-inspection.”

There are no records to indicate any of the cited work has been undertaken.

McCafferty said the city is in the process of requesting a receiver for the property.

“It’s a frustratingly long process, but it is in motion and the Law Department will continue to pursue the case,” she wrote Zoeller.

Because the city does not control the property it legally cannot enter the house or yard, she said. The city has had difficulty serving papers to Moise, but McCafferty said another attempt to serve has been approved by the court. Once the papers have been served, the city can move forward with the steps that would lead to receivership.

Ward Three City Councilor Melvin Edwards lives across the street from the backyard of the property on Dexter Street and said, “It’s been on the city’s radar.”

He noted the Springfield Preservation Trust has placed the property on its “Endangered List.” The Trust’s description notes it was one of the first bed and breakfast facilities in the city and that it suffered damage from the 2011 tornado.

Edwards said “several years ago” someone threw oil into the swimming pool. He added the backyard had once had gardens, fruit trees, a koi pond and a gazebo.

After the tornado, Moise rebuilt the back porch, Edwards said, without the approval of the Historic Commission. Despite a cease and desist letter the work continued, he added.