SHIRLEY -- The derelict, 10-unit apartment building across from the park at the corner of Mill and Fredonian streets and formerly owned by a Chelmsford man is now in foreclosure and nearly vacant, with only three tenants left.
Animal Control Officer Earl Hamel told the Board of Health Monday night that neighbors have logged cruelty and safety complaints about the condition of animals in one of the building's occupied apartments, two cats and a dog.
When Hamel visited the apartment, he found a "horrendous flea infestation," he said. Simply touching one of the cats, his arm was covered with fleas, he said, and the dog's back was "all chewed up" from biting itself.
Those animals are in bad shape, he said, and in his opinion, their owners are living in unsanitary conditions.
Member Jackie Esielionis said the health board has been notified that a bank now owns the property, which has numerous health and safety issues outstanding. In addition to general clean-up, there's extensive structural work required that contractors won't tackle until the building is empty, she said, including the roof, windows and the heating system.
Some of the problems have been fixed, she said, such as fire alarms, but the rest can't be addressed until all the occupants are out of there.
To that end, tenants were offered "keys for cash" deals that most of them accepted, she said.
But the three hold-outs are ignoring bank notices and letters and haven't
The next step is eviction, Esielionis said.
Meantime, the animals are suffering, Hamel said.
Their owners told him they'd tried flea bombing their apartments and other measures, to no avail.
He recommended using Dawn dishwashing detergent. It's mild, fleas don't like it and it won't hurt the animals, he said.