| Times Telegram
When Herkimer village codes officers Ralph Franco and Tina Cirelli wanted to check the condition of the roofs of two vacant commercial buildings, they enlisted the help of the village police department and its drone.
It is not illegal to own a vacant building, Cirelli explained, but the owner is required to make sure the structure is maintained and that includes keeping the siding and roof in good condition. While the codes officers could easily check the siding, the roofs were more of a challenge.
“I said ‘I wish we had a drone,’ ” Cirelli recalled.
She was informed the village police station did have a drone, and it was available for use by any village department. She contacted the police department, and made arrangements to get a bird’s eye view of buildings at 121, 131 and 133 N. Main St. and a building with a banner advertising “Fun Factory” at the corner of King Street and Eureka Avenue.
Police Officer James Burns, a part 107 certified drone pilot, operated the device and gave the codes officers a chance to see what shape the roofs were in. There were no visible holes in the roofs on North Main Street, but Cirelli said the codes department will again ask for the drone to be used in the spring to take another look. There are problems with the front section of the King Street building, she said, although the rear of the structure appears to be in good condition.
The Herkimer Police Department purchased a pair of Unmanned Aircraft Systems or drones last year to use in its work and to assist other departments and agencies. The larger drone, a DJI Enterprise with 4K Dual Thermal, can be used for viewing inaccessible areas or carrying items and dropping them where they are needed. The smaller, lightweight DJI Mavic Mini is for indoor use and would be helpful in a situation where someone has barricaded him or herself into a building.
This is not the first time the village codes department has dealt with issues related to some of these buildings. The village has been reaching out to the owners for several years reminding them they still own, and are responsible for, the buildings, Cirelli said.
They must remove combustible materials from the buildings and make sure the structures are in good condition. The village also would like to know their intentions regarding the buildings.
If owners fail to correct the codes violations, they will be fined, she added. “We’re building a case.”
In 2016, codes officers declared the building at 133 N. Main St. to be unfit for habitation, but found some people, including three children, living in an upstairs apartment, although water to the building had been shut off for several months.
They had pets there as well, and the apartment was described as being full of fleas and cockroaches. The building was boarded up, “no trespassing” signs posted and a letter sent to the out-of-town landlord advising him that the building had been shut down and could not be occupied until and unless it is cleaned up and codes violations remedied.
Donna Thompson is the government and business reporter for the Times Telegram. For unlimited access to her stories, please subscribe or activate your digital account today. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.