Orange Board of health wants property cleaned up
ORANGE — In an update to the selectboard Wednesday night, town health director Andrea Crete, and board of heath chair Jane Peirce presented an update of their ongoing legal battle with John Avila, of 475 East Main St.
Peirce told the selectboard that the amount of materials that have accumulated at Avila’s residence has become an issue as it could allow “vermin or other animals that could harm the public interest.” As it currently exists, any emergency or first responders to the property would be unable to enter due to safety concerns, she said.
Selectboard chairman Ryan Mailloux thanked Peirce for bringing that to the attention of the selectboard. “The last thing we want is for there to be a fire and have our protective services go onto that property and have to risk their lives even further because of the way the property is set up and being run right now,” he said.
Both Peirce and Crete said that they are sorry that the town has had to take legal action against Avila because they understand he has a right to own his property. They added that the court option is always the last option the board of health seeks after all attempts to work with the property owner have broken down.
Peirce noted that it is not an easy feat working with Avila to clean up his property. Currently there is a sign in front of the property stating “It’s time to cut the Crete.”
The next court date for the board of health and Avila is Sept. 29, in the Greenfield Housing Court, reported Crete. “We are hoping it is going to be our last,” she said. It is the hope of the board of health that the judge will order Avila to clean up the property. “He has been giving him more time because, like us, he wants to work with [Avila] but it seems to have been one thing after another to buy more time at this point. So we’re hoping the judge will say ‘all right, enough’s enough.’”
Should the judge order Avila to clean up the property and he refuses, the town could then contract out with a company to clean the property and put a lien on it for the cost.
This week, prior to the board of health’s report to the selectboard, the Athol Daily News received a packet of information from Avila that had also been sent to the board of health and a number of other news outlets in which he alleges that the town is only pushing for the cleanup of his property because they blame the closure of Serendipities (next door) on him, and the subsequent inability of the owners to be able to sell the property. He also included a copy of the $18,580.69 legal bill he has received from his lawyer as a result of his legal battle with the town and a warning that “If you remove the thousands of dollars of my possession from my yard. At my expense and then lien my property for the cost of disposal. Most assuredly, you are not going to like me.”
In his hand-written documents Avila also accuses the town government, town counsel Donna MacNicol, former building inspector Brian Gale, and former state representative Denise Andrews of all having a vendetta against him. He claims this has resulted in the loss of his job as a school bus driver when someone, according to Avila, reported to his employer, the F.M. Kuzmeskus, Inc. bus company, seeing Avila siphoning gas out of the bus into a personal storage device. Another complaint stated they had witnessed Avila bringing kids from his bus into his house. He says both cases had been unfounded but had still resulted in the loss of his job, something he states in the documents that he is still fighting.
Avila ran an unsuccessful write-in campaign for a seat on the selectboard last year, gathering only six votes. While standing outside the polling place the morning of the election, a representative of the bus company approached, handed him his last paycheck, said he was through, then took the bus, Avila wrote.
Avila appeared in District Court for a miscellaneous municipal ordinance/bylaw violation in Dec. 2014; the charges were dismissed after $25 in court costs were paid.