To keep Watertown’s vacant property registry going, it’ll be a team effort

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 2:45 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Vacant properties are scattered down Watertown streets.

So much so, city code enforcement has been keeping tabs.

“There’s a fair amount on the list,” said Code Enforcement Supervisor Dana Aikins.

Aikins says the city presented around 80 to the state last year. The vacant buildings list is part of a 2019 local law requiring property owners to register vacant buildings and homes with the city.

Former Code Enforcement Officer Christine Shipley was running that show but she recently retired.

“Probably about 50 percent of her time was focused on this,” Aikins said. “There are a lot of other issues that come out of that list. So, it’s all kind of intertwined.”

Those Issues are things like tall grass, and trash and debris, which codes officials say could bring down neighboring property values. With Shipley retired, Aikins says it’s up to his limited staff to pick up where Shipley left off.

“It’s been pretty tricky. We have really good staff, but they’re all fairly new. So, we just incorporate those things into their daily routine, as opposed to having someone more solely focused on the vacant registry,” Aikins said.

Watertown Mayor Jeff Smith wants the list to keep going but he doesn’t see the need to have it be one employee’s main focus.

“That’s one of the things we don’t want to let go by the wayside,” Smith said. “But all the initial work has already been done, so it doesn’t need a full time person just for that.”

Smith says it’s been a while since City Council has had an update on the vacant building registry. Aikins plans to provide one in the coming months.

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