The overall goal of the task force is to get vacant properties occupied again and collect any back taxes owed. Now with momentum on their side, Buckley and City Council Chairman Sean Fountain expect the task force to accomplish even more in 2013.
“I think we made some good progress,” said Fountain, who also serves on the task force. “The group sees that we want to be aggressive and make some changes rapidly.”
Inside Buckley’s City Hall office, a large map of Methuen is dotted with properties the task force is monitoring. While trouble areas appear in small clusters, there is no discernible epicenter.
The foreclosure epidemic did not discriminate between urban and affluent sections of the city.
“This crisis was sort of equal opportunity,” said Buckley. “We had properties on Morgan Drive, which some would argue is one of the nicest streets in all of Methuen.”
The work of the task force and the city’s building and health inspectors is not easy. City officials have said each property has a different back story and must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Among the properties to see a positive change:
48 Meriline Ave.: Vacant since July 2010; hole in roof for two years; demolished Dec. 3 after it was deemed uninhabitable.
10 Meriline Ave.: Vacant since January 2009; severely overgrown trees and shrubs made the house barely visible from the street, but the lot was cleaned up in December and the home boarded up by the bank that owns it.
192 Merrimack St.: Vacant since July 2008; overgrown lot and reports of squatters; cleaned up in late November.
423 Broadway: Vacant since August 2008; reports of rodents, squatters and missing copper pipes; the city boarded it up and with the help of the attorney general is working with the owners to schedule a clean up.