A general decline in the Main Street business district in Angola, coupled with complaints of loitering and intimidation there, has prompted the Village Board to create a task force to look into the problems.
Trustee Gary Walter, who heads the task force, said the group is made up of village officials, the police chief and local business leaders, and has two goals: to revitalize the district and to crack down on the property owners responsible for the problems faced by residents in the area.
While Walter emphasized that most residents maintain their properties, there is room for improvement in the business district.
"There are problems that have crept up that we're trying to address," he said.
Walter said some landlords, many of whom do not live in the area and have let the properties decline, rent the apartments to young people, who, in turn, draw groups of their friends into the Main Street business district, where they party and congregate on the sidewalks in front of the buildings.
Walter said there has been an increase in the number of domestic calls and complaints from residents about intimidation, foul language and loitering.
A visible and dramatic example of the problem was the raid Feb. 8 of a village apartment where 13 suspects were arrested for allegedly using one of the apartments as a place to consume alcohol and drugs.
"This problem is not unique to the Village of Angola," said Police Chief Patrick Puckhaber. "This is a common problem. We have to do something."
Loitering on the sidewalks in good weather is another problem, along with foul language and mannerisms.
"These apartments on Main Street are nothing more than rooming houses," Puckhaber said. Fifteen to 20 young people at a time congregate in front of the entrance to the apartments, creating an atmosphere of intimidation for village residents, he said.
Drastic measures will be needed improve the situation, Puckhaber said.
"It does affect the quality of life for the village," he said. "The solution is: A lot of these buildings are going to have to be brought up to code, and the landlords are going to have to take more responsibility."
The village has already added a foot and bike patrol to the area in good weather. Puckhaber said money is already in the forthcoming budget to continue police presence there.
Mayor Lou Atti said the task force was not formed just to attack existing problems.
"We also wanted to meet with some of the business owners on Main Street to see what we can do to help," Atti said.
Some of that help is financial, making business owners aware of grant money and other funding that is available. "We're trying to look at everything on Main Street," Atti said.
The task force is examining all aspects of the business area, including strict enforcement of existing building and fire codes; new building codes that will encourage development and discourage vacant storefronts and buildings used for warehousing; beautification of village-owned areas; and grant programs and funding.