Crackdown on absentee landlords beefs up New Britain police force
By WFSB Staff
NEW BRITAIN, CT (WFSB) -
Earlier this month, landlords were fired up about fees being jacked up on their properties in New Britain to help the city close a more than $4 million budget gap.
On Monday, Eyewitness News learned how that money would benefit the police department as well as other city departments and residents.
After months of being short 35 officers, the police department will soon be at full staff. The shortage has caused officers to work double shifts and the department to have no specialized officers walking the beat.
"There's going to be relief for them," said New Britain Police Chief James Wardwell. "They'll be additional officers, who will be here to work side by side with us to address the needs of the city."
Wardwell said he will be able to hire an additional 40 new officers over the course of several months because of the nearly $500,000 boost injected from the controversial landlord fee proposal passed by the council on Oct. 4. The hiring process has already started already and should be completed by the end of next year.
"It's light at the end of the tunnel," Wardwell said.
The new ordinance will require landlords to pay a yearly $150 fee per unit in their complex. And if they don't keep their residences blight free, they cannot rent them out.
"I made the decision that we would hire more police officers," said Mayor Tim O'Brien. "But it takes money to do that though."
If your building is visited by an emergency crew more than nine times in a year, you'll pay a hot spot tax.
"It's important for the quality of life in neighborhoods," O'Brien said. "It's important for public safety and it's the right thing to do."
The combined fees are expected to net the city $1.2 million. The police and schools were the first to benefit from the windfall. After school programs were spared by the proposal and there was no increase in property taxes, O'Brien said.
"Owner occupied landlords don't have to pay it at all," he said. "Residents of New Britain don't have to pay it on buildings they live in."
However, New Britain renters will see an increase.
"I don't want my rent to get raised. I'm against it," said Marc Sziabowski, who rents in New Britain. "Everybody else is probably having a hard time just like I am."
According to O'Brien, on average rents in the city have doubled, so he said the landlords have the money and should not pass it onto their tenants.
Copyright 2012 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved
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