As stated in the executive order, the mission of the Nuisance Task Force is to address, in a holistic and systematic way, properties identified as nuisances that negatively impact our neighborhoods, the quality of housing available, and the health and life of city residents, businesses and visitors. The Task Force is a cross-departmental effort designed to create collaboration among city officials in identifying and abating nuisance properties.
Recently, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin joined Central Falls Mayor James A. Diossa to announce a $250,000 grant awarded to the Nuisance Task Force to support the City’s efforts to identify and remediate vacant and abandoned properties, launch of a tri-lingual, community-based education program about foreclosures, and an innovative public engagement and community data program and report on steps the City is taking to address the issue. The funding is made available through the National Mortgage Settlement between the five largest mortgage service providers and attorneys general nationwide, including Attorney General Kilmartin. Read the Memorandum of Agreement between the Office of the Attorney General and the City of Central Falls here.
The Nuisance Task Force meets the second Monday and last Wednesday of every month at 12:00 pm in the City Council Chambers and the meeting is open to the public.
The goals of the Nuisance Task Force are as follows:
- Create a system to document, track and report on nuisance properties;
- Research and document best practices to address nuisance properties;
- Develop and implement strategies for nuisance abatement that are individually tailored to targeted nuisance property;
- Meet with and assist owners, neighbors and interested parties of nuisance properties in abating the nuisances;
- Request prosecution for those liable for nuisance properties who fail or refuse to abate nuisances;
- Facilitate the transfer of abandoned or otherwise severely neglected properties to responsible owners;
- Identify potential urban redevelopment and neighborhood revitalization opportunities and to facilitate the coordinated and efficient realization of these opportunities;
- Provide multilingual community education and awareness with respect to foreclosure, nuisance avoidance and abatement, responsible ownership, and landlord-tenant relations;
- Complete a comprehensive review, identify improvements and propose revisions of city ordinances; and
- Improve the overall quality of housing stock and quality of life in the neighborhoods in the City of Central Falls.
The 13 members of the Task Force are as follows:
- Robert Weber, Esq., Assistant City Solicitor, Chair
- Elaine Partridge, Director of Code Enforcement, Vice-Chair
- Matthew Jerzyk, Esq., City Solicitor
- Col. James Mendonca, Chief of the Police Department, or his designee
- Chief Robert Bradley, of the Fire Department or his designee
- Lisette Gomes, Esq., Assistant City Solicitor, Housing Prosecutor
- Bob Battey, Tax Assessor, or his designee
- Peter Friedrichs, Director of Planning, or his designee
- Dianny Pena, Pawtucket Central Falls Development Corporation
- Hon. Ann Racquier, Central Falls City Council
- Sonia Grace, City Clerk, or her designee
- Joee Lindbeck, Office of the Attorney General, or her designee
- Tina Sullivan, Central Falls Housing Authority, or her designee
The Task Force defines a nuisance as follows: any property that, by virtue of its physical condition, activity, or situation, poses a threat to the health, safety or welfare of the community or otherwise compromises the quality of life for nearby properties.
When a department or a citizen identifies a property as a nuisance property, a referral is made to the City Solicitor with all of the relevant information on the nuisance property. The City Solicitor will keep a master list of all pending nuisance properties and will distribute the list at every Task Force meeting. Any department can add a property to the list and other departments will provide the Task Force with information necessary to develop an abatement strategy for the property. Each department ranks every property on the master list with a score ranging from 0-5. A zero represents that a department has no interaction with a property and a 5 represents that the property is an immediate and crucial concern to that department and likely cannot be abated pursuant to standard procedures. These rankings will be used to determine which properties are brought to the attention of the Task Force.
Why is the Nuisance Task Force important?
Presently, the city has the lowest median income in the state ($20,000 less than the state average) and the highest rate of unemployment. This financial reality puts a tremendous strain on the municipality’s ability to function properly, while meeting the needs of its citizens.
Adding to this socioeconomic crisis has been an unprecedented fiscal crisis. The City became the third municipality in the country to have the dubious distinction of filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in August of 2011. The City emerged from bankruptcy in September of 2012, and now operates under a court-approved and supervised financial plan that projects revenue and expenses over a six-year period until 2017.
As our city emerges from the darkest chapter in its history, there are limited quality of life opportunities for our citizens, especially when it comes to maintaining quality, affordable housing and tackling the challenges of the foreclosure crisis. The majority of our nearly 20,000 residents are minorities (60% Latino) living in triple-decker homes constructed during the Industrial Revolution for mill workers. With the highest unemployment rate in the state, citizens living in vulnerable dwellings often seek risky heating alternatives during the harsh winter months, exposing them to higher risks of dangerous fires.
According to the HousingWorks RI 2013 Housing Fact Book, here are some of the relevant city housing facts.
- Average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment $863
- Household income required for that rent to be affordable $34,520
- Average private-sector wage for jobs in Central Falls $32,968
- Actual number of foreclosures 37
- Total number of mortgaged housing units 1,211
- Foreclosures as a percentage of mortgaged stock 3.10%
- Number of year-round housing units 7,473
- Housing units that quality as affordable 866
- Affordable housing units reserved for the elderly 632
- Affordable housing units reserved for families 187
- Units reserved for persons with special needs 47
By creating the Nuisance Task Force, the City intends on turning these numbers around and leading a Central Falls comeback.