Today I went out to see the action the city was taking on blighted property on Marine Court. These are pictures from today, and a story should be in Friday's edition of The Bristol Press, http://www.bristolpress.com/.
If you want a little more perspective, read on.
These photos are of property on Marine Court owned by Francis Kerr. On Thursday morning, the city called in an emergency contractor -- D'Amato -- to clear a nearly vacant (except for the debris) plot of land owned by Kerr. The city is in court with Kerr over his house, which is shown in the top photo. The bottom photo is of the sort-of vacant land. It has a garage that is falling down (with a car of some sort inside) and what amounts to a bunch of junk all around -- rusty barrels, the frame of a big old wagon and a stack of tires.
I am not a fastidious person but I can say that Kerr's place is a mess.
The trouble is, he apparently likes it that way.
Some neighbors have complained bitterly to the city. They worry about declining home values, pests that might be attracted to the debris and also about some of the mess falling into their yards.
Mostly, the neighbors don't want to be quoted. They're leery of Kerr, who keeps to himself and has signs posted around the perimeter of his property warning people to stay away.
But those who know him say he's a very smart man, someone who isn't violent or dangerous. The Kozikowski family, Kerr's next door neighbors -- who might have the most reason to gripe -- say they like him and have learned to live with the way he keeps the property.
Kerr apparently doesn't have a phone and I've never spoken to him. My heart does go out to him, though. He's a Vietnam vet whose parents have died. He has no siblings, spouse or children. And the city he's lived in all his life is after him. He could face jail on violations of health laws if he doesn't clean up his house. Mayor Art Ward said Kerr has been found incompetent.
Certainly it's not fair to the neighborhood for the city to do nothing. This has been a blight problem in Bristol for almost 20 years. And when buildings are falling down, as the garage on Kerr's lot is, it is dangerous. The city has to act on that.
Those who know Kerr say he doesn't want any help and refuses medication. I don't know what the answer is, but it doesn't seem right to me to throw him in jail for what amounts to being a serious packrat. I truly hope it doesn't come to that.