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Springville weighs property complaint form

Springville residents may soon have an anonymous method for reporting property violations such as lack of maintenance, tall grass, abandoned vehicles or illegal drug sales from vacant houses.

The Village Board received a proposal Monday night from Michael Kaleta, code enforcement officer and building inspector, to establish a form for residents to file property complaints without submitting their names.

Kaleta told board members buildings can become vacant without his knowledge because residents show a reluctance to report violations with their name attached to the complaint. The village’s process requires residents to give their name when filing complaints about abandoned or neglected properties or property owners who violate village laws.

“People are afraid to put their names to things,” he said.

In some cases, property owners move out of a house but continue to pay the utility bills, which gives Kaleta no reason to suspect the home is empty. He stressed he has no knowledge of a vacated house “unless someone says something.”

He added illegal drug sales have occurred in some vacant houses. With an anonymous complaint form, he believes those incidents would be reported more often.

Mayor William Krebs agreed with the idea. He voiced optimism that the anonymous form will help the board in its continuing efforts to address distressed properties.

“Property maintenance is the biggest” of the issues, he said afterward.

Trustees plan to suggest revisions to the proposed form.

“Next meeting, we’ll give him feedback,” he said.

If approved, the form will allow residents to email complaints, place them in a drop box at the village offices or mail them. The proposed form lets residents check off boxes indicating a vacant building, unlicensed or abandoned vehicles, excessive garbage, property maintenance issues, grass or weeds that exceed 10 inches, yard clutter, paint or roofing problems, drug activity, commercial property health and safety concerns or concerns in public places.

Also at the meeting:

• Board members also heard from Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District officials about the district’s proposed budget. The Board of Education may vote on the budget tonight.

“We’re doing our very best to hold the line on taxes,” said Superintendent Paul Connelly.

The proposed budget includes a tax levy increase from $14,709,576 to $15,157,008. Possible staffing alterations involve the elimination of a special education teaching position and a special education teacher’s aide and the addition of a kindergarten teacher and curriculum coordinator.

“I think the school district is facing some of the same fiscal constraints as villages do,” Krebs said afterward.

Officials discussed sharing services in the upcoming years in accordance with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s request for consolidated services. The mayor cautioned that they have a “couple of years to figure it out.”

• Board members unanimously approved a request from the Fiddlers Green Country and Bluegrass Festival organizers to waive the fee for the festival’s banner.

Some trustees voiced concerns about setting a precedent. Krebs suggested the fee only be waived for villagewide events.