Keeping it clean in Pittsfield: A look at the job of the city's nuisance control officer

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PITTSFIELD — Jeffrey Roucoulet's days are spent surrounded by tall grass, excessive trash and illegal dumping.

Such is the life of a nuisance control officer.

And when it comes to tossing that old couch or chair, or complying with a number of other health department regulations, it pays to know the rules.

City law requires properties be clean, safe and sanitary. That means lawns should be mowed, trash properly stored, and bulky waste, such as that old couch, needs to be tagged for collection.

Property owners who fail to heed the rules for so-called "nuisance" violations are subject to fines of $50 to $400 per offense. The city took in about $12,500 for those in fiscal 2016.

On average, city inspectors issue about 232 such violations monthly, according to the Health Department.

Health Department Director Gina Armstrong and Roucoulet said the city does its best to educate property owners about rules, offering a warning and a chance to fix a problem first.

"We usually find an owner takes care of it the majority of the time," he said.

Nuisance violations tend to change with the season.

Roucoulet said spring cleaning, and tenant turnover, often yields large items on curbs. In the summer, lawns can get unruly and owners may need to be reminded to keep grass under 10 inches. And during the winter, city inspectors find themselves sending notices about unshoveled sidewalks.

Roucoulet said if people see a nuisance violation they should report it to the city. That can be done through the PittSmart mobile app, the city's website, email or by calling the Health Department.

He said online reporting tools have made a difference.

"Because of those, we are seeing more active engagement with the community," he said.

He added that residents using PittSmart have an added benefit — real-time updates on the status of a complaint.

Bulky items, like couches, desks, chairs, and mattresses, are eligible for curbside pickup for an additional fee. Residents must purchase a sticker, to be placed on the item, to assure collection and avoid a fine.

Stickers are $15 per item and available at a variety of locations including the city clerk's office, Carr Hardware and several grocery stores.

City residents can also drop bulky waste at Covanta Pittsfield on Hubbard Avenue, starting at $10 per item.

And before you pay to discard it, if the item is in good working condition, Armstrong said to consider donating it.

Reach staff writer Carrie Saldo at 413-496-6221 or @carriesaldo


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