SHIRLEY -- The eight-unit apartment building at 21 Mill St. has been in bad shape for a long time.

In limbo for at least nine months after being cited by the Board of Health for numerous health and building code and safety violations, it was apparently in trouble for some time before that.

"It took a couple of years for the bank to foreclose," said Board of Health member Butch Farrar when the building came up for discussion at Monday night's meeting.

The Board of Health got involved when a tenant complained, member Jackie Esielionis said.

The owner had defaulted on the mortgage and tenants were not paying rent. The bank, meanwhile, wanted to empty the building so that it could be fixed, a major job. Floors, ceilings, walls, windows and its roof needed replacement.

At one point, the dog officer was called because animals in the few occupied apartments had a massive flea problem. By then, it was a waiting game, with most tenants gone and only a few left, holding up renovation plans.

The derelict Mill Street building was one of four properties lined up on the board's agenda for as many hearings related to violations, variance issues and, in the case of compliance work in progress, status review.

The Mill Street property is not bank-owned any more, according to a bank representative present, identified as Mr. Mawn. Also present was Michael McCarthy, representing the new owner, Steven Caruso.

The property was sold at a "significant discount" from market value, Mawn told the board.

McCarthy said his client is a reputable and reliable developer. Mawn agreed.

The last time the board discussed the matter with the bank, all eight units were occupied, Mawn said, but five units have been vacated since. "The bank offered incentives," to the remaining tenants to leave the building, he said, such as cash and moving assistance, and even contracted with movers.

Some took the money and moved. Others did not. But progress had been made, including a "verbal contract" with one tenant. The other two have indicated they plan to move, too, once they find a suitable apartment elsewhere. To that end, Esielionis, a local Realtor, said she forwarded available listings and the names of real-estate agents they can talk to.

If all else fails, eviction notices will be issued, McCarthy said.

Except for the numerous violations, all of which Caruso reportedly plans to address when the building is vacant, the property is free and clear, according to Mawn, who said all outstanding fees, back taxes, sewer liens and assessments were resolved with the town.

"The bank "developed a relationship with the contractor" and transferred title recently, McCarthy said. "I think this has all been done in good faith." Now, Caruso wants to get moving to get the building back on line.

"We're glad to hear that," said Board of Health Chairman Joseph Howlett. "We didn't want tenants there in the building's present condition."

Esielionis asked for a progress report by the board's next meeting. McCarthy promised to provide the report and subsequent updates.