Houlton code enforcement officer explores ways to clean up the town

4 weeks ago

HOULTON, Maine – The Houlton code enforcement officer shared a draft solid waste ordinance with the town council on Monday night, following resident complaints of visible trash, debris and rats in many downtown neighborhoods.

Ben Torres explained that he is starting with a number of proposed changes to the solid waste ordinance because it is already part of the Houlton code. 

“We do not have a dangerous structures ordinance within the Houlton code or within the zoning ordinance,” he said. “I will be looking to put together a dangerous structures ordinance by the next town meeting.”

Torres said since the resident complaint he has changed his schedule around and spent more time patrolling the neighborhoods for violations. But there is only so much he can do, especially when knocking on doors, in any given week and he still heavily relies on complaints, phone calls, emails and photos. 

“Anything and everything anyone wants to send my way to direct my attention to a particular area,” he said. 

Town Councilor Jane Torres asked Torres, who is her son, how he has the power to make it happen.

He explained that he has been in an ongoing discussion with the town attorney on how they can apply the rules more quickly.

Currently they have to give three notices of violations, each with a time interval given to remedy the situation, and then the town attorney takes it to court, he said. 

Torres explained that he has been talking to the code enforcement in Presque Isle regarding their process for issuing fines at the town level by the city police.

“I’m talking with them to determine where they get the legal authority to do that,” he said. “Because in Houlton we have always levied our fines through the court system which has taken many months.”

Councilors said they need to find a way to levy the fines through the town for more immediate consequences. 

Currently in Houlton the zoning ordinance infraction fines are $50 per violation per day and solid waste ordinance violations are $100 for the first violation and no more than $500 for a second.