Talking trash with Adams health and housing inspector

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ADAMS >> Thomas Romaniak, 57, spent more than three decades delivering emergency services to area residents. He spent 32 years as an Adams Alerts volunteer fire company firefighter and 15 years as a dispatcher for the town's police department. Being an active member of the community and working in a constructive way was meaningful to him, he said earlier this week.

The dispatcher job was cut when the town opted to enter into a dispatch services contract with the Berkshire County Sheriff's Communication Center. The new system has been in place for about a month.

Romaniak applied for a newly-created town full-time health and housing inspector job and was hired from a pool of three interviewed applicants. He began his new duties on May 2. As of July 1, the start of Fiscal Year 2017, his wages are $23 per hour for a 35-hour work week, he said.

The new job was created following part-time town Code Enforcement Officer Scott Koczelas' January resignation, said Community Development Director Donna Cesan. Cesan is acting town administrator in the absence of Administrator Tony Mazzucco. Mazzucco was unavailable to comment for this article.

Koczela left town employment to accept a full-time post with the state Department of Public Health in Northampton.

Koczela had been working two days a week as a town-paid code enforcement officer and three days a week for the town's Community Development office, being paid with community development block grant funds, according to Community Development Director Donna Cesan.

Koczela was initially hired as a full-time code enforcement officer about 10 years ago but that position was reduced in 2014, Cesan said.

In July 2015, town selectmen approved a 60/40 job design at least until year's end, when grant funding would be depleted.

As a consequence of the code enforcement reduction, Board of Health members often had to tackle time-consuming tasks and it was decided that a new job could combine some building inspection work with health inspections, Cesan said. The Health and Housing Inspector job was advertised with an application deadline of Feb. 19, Cesan said.

"What we now have is Tom to enforce our town Board of Health regulations involving rental properties, particularly multiple family rental units," Cesan said. "Our town has a Board of Health issued Certificate of Compliance that goes along with our Board of Health rental housing inspection program. Our building commissioner, Don Toricco, handles certificates of occupancy and also handles all the state regulations."

Romaniak also tackles issues such as trash pileups and restaurant inspections. During late May, a two-page document listing numerous garbage and trash pileup complaints also indicated that most had been resolved by Romaniak.

The new job keeps him helping the public and also keeps him busy, Romaniak said.

Garbage and trash heaps, which often attract vermin, and issues surrounding abandoned or foreclosed properties are among the many situations requiring attention, Romaniak said.

"With the trash, a lot of the cases are perpetual," he said. "I like to try to talk to people and tell them what they need to do but I can start fining. I can fine right away. In some cases the fines are $50 per day until the situation is cleaned up."

People need to know that he is a full-time inspector and will follow up with any complaints, he said.

"I do want to explain things," he said. "I try to get people to see that they have to keep things clean."

People may not realize that allowing junk, tires, trash or garbage to accumulate can generate all sorts of health risks, Romaniak said. Rodents drawn to garbage piles often carry diseases that can cause sickness among humans, he said. Water collects and pools in tires and provides an excellent breeding ground for mosquitoes, he said. Mosquitoes are frequent carriers of illnesses and viruses.

"People need to keep their yards and porches clear of trash and garbage," he said. "That's a big part of it. People can keep their tires but they can't keep them laying around so that the water gets into them and creates these problems. We have a lot of abandoned or bank-owned properties and I have to send out notices that the properties are getting overgrown. Then (the property overseers) will send someone out, but it isn't consistent. It will grow up again and I have to send another notice."

Restaurant inspections will begin soon. Romaniak said he will accompany experienced inspectors a time or two to be certain that he knows precisely what the specifics of those inspections require.

Romaniak said he attends training sessions frequently.

"There will always be more trainings because there will always be something to learn," he said.

He is available to speak with residents who have questions or concerns about situations under his purview and he is willing to meet with those needing assistance with a problem, he said.

"I'm learning a lot, and there is a lot to learn,'he said."I like the job."

Those wishing to speak with Romaniak should call the town office building at 743-8300.


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