City Keeping a Closer Eye on Auto Repair Shops

Franklin Street residents complain to city about K&C Auto Repair, AutoHaus.

Over the last two years, Dorothy Healey Lemelin has called or emailed city officials 34 times complaining about her neighbor, the and on Franklin Street.

Her complaints range from paint fumes that exacerbate her asthma and cars blocking her driveway to late night welding and tow trucks dropping off cars at 3 a.m.

She said calling and emailing city officials has been “exhausting.”

The fumes from the auto body shops “burn my throat, sting my eyes and make me dizzy,” Lemelin said. Doctors have prescribed medication for her asthma, made worse by the paint fumes. And the fight with the auto repair shop “makes me very nervous,” she said.

The City Council subcommittee on public health and safety, having heard similar complaints about the auto repair shops for years, convened a public meeting last Thursday night to ask city health, building inspection and police departments what are they doing and what needs to be done about K&C.

Subcommittee chairman, Councilor-at-Large Steven Pinto, also invited the K&C owners, which reportedly include John Anezis, to attend the hearing. But no one from the business appeared at the hearing in the city council chambers.

A visit to K&C after the hearing found the business closed for the night.

Jon Pitt, another neighbor, told the subcommittee that the paint fumes were so pungent that they smelled like you had your nose in a nail polish bottle. He also complained about a 5 a.m. tow truck drop off that was so loud it woke up his year-old baby.

Leslie Limon, a member of the Neighborhood Improvement Advisory Council, questioned if the business could operate until 11 p.m.

Others warned that children being driven to the Kiddie Koup on Foster Street are in danger from the traffic jams created by illegally parked vehicles at the auto repair shops.

City officials from three departments that supervise health and safety issues said there was little they could do.

Residents were not happy with the lack of city action against the repair shops.

Health Department agent David Greenbaum, who only learned about Lemelin's recent complaint against K&C in the last few days, said he would do an inspection of the business to see if it is complying with an agreement with the city to install charcoal filters to reduce the paint fumes.

K&C agreed to install the charcoal filters and build an extended chimney as part of a criminal complaint filed by the city several years ago.

But Greenbaum said he visited the business last year and stood on Lemelin's steps and did not find the fumes to be health threatening. He said he believes the car repair shop now uses latex paint, instead of oil-based paints, which are being phased out by the manufacturers.

He told the councilors if he hears any new complaints about fumes, "I will drop everything and go there immediately."

Police Sgt. Dennis King promised that he would alert the patrol officers to watch for parking violations around the auto repair shop. He said he would also find out what action the took when Lemelin filed complaints.

Building Inspector Tom St. Pierre said he would talk with the assistant town solicitor about any possible violations of the city's zoning laws. But he noted that an auto repair business appears to have been operating in that location since the mid-1960s.

“To take action against them for something that happened 45 years ago is just not going to work,” St. Pierre said.

He conceded that there are some unresolved violations, including issues with the dumpster. He said the city had not moved against K&C because of a lack of manpower. But he expects to enforce the issues against K&C soon.

Ward 6 Councilor Paul Prevey, whose district includes Franklin Street,  brought the issue to the council; he was frustrated that the city has little ability to help the neighbors. He said he would work with the city solicitor to write a new bylaw that restricts the hours of operations for industrial businesses near residential areas.

The subcommittee said it would review the departments' efforts again in the near future. 

gene October 03, 2011 at 03:15 PM
This is what happens when residences and businesses are in such close proximity to each other. The problem gets worse when the body shop continuously breaks the rules and parks cars illegally. There is no parking on that street but its not unusually to as many as a half dozen cars under repair parked there. This problem has been going on for years I'm not surprised that Prevey only now brought it to the Council's attention. It seems he's beeen busy trying to the Mayor's work!
john October 03, 2011 at 04:19 PM
Blah,blah,blah from the city once again. Lack of manpower? We give 7.5% raises and we have a lack of manpower? New school boss at how much?
JennyCat October 03, 2011 at 07:10 PM
read the paper- 5 people in the city got the 7 1/2% raise- the mayors inner circle. You think the average city workers got that- th eones who would actually be responding to these kind of complaints? Nope! They didnt get a raise this year. School boss salary IS ridiculous- but no one votes in the elections! Or they vote for the SAME people over and over. Stop complaining, Salem, and DO something! Taxes are out of control, MORE affordable housing is coming.......man open your eyes!
john October 03, 2011 at 08:59 PM
Do you have a point? The building inspector got the raise. He is the one responding. Lets face it, the average city worker dosen't do much of anything.Salem subs everything out. Read the paper? They love the mayor.
gene October 03, 2011 at 10:34 PM
I trust Tom St. Pierre completely! I understand that it's only him and another inpsector doing the work once done by 4 inspectors. A pay raise doesn't equate to having suitable staffing. It only means people who haven't received raises for years finally received one.
john October 03, 2011 at 10:58 PM
Take a ride to the transfer station and tell me how the city allows any business to operate within 100 yards of that structure? Maybe a lack of manpower has prevented an inspection for the last 10 years but I doubt it. A pay raise that big should certainly make residents feel comfortable in thinking the job is being done correctly.
Leslie December 05, 2011 at 05:20 AM
So here we are, 2 months later, and what has changed? Nothing. Parking, noise, and street-blocking violations continue. Enforcement is a joke. Oh, wait. Did I say nothing had changed? My mistake. A few weeks ago, the ZBA granted IN THE SAME AREA a special permit to a daycare for up to 50 dogs 7 am to 7 pm on weekdays, plus behavioral training on weekends (how's that for a Sunday a.m. wake-up call?). I guess they decided there were already so many other invasive operations going on in the neighborhood that it wouldn't hurt to add another. I propose that the city revise the “slippery slope” zoning ordinance with respect to changing one nonconforming use to another within a residential area. If each successive nonconforming use morphs even slightly from the previous one, eventually a tipping point is reached. Three, four, five changes down the road, you end up with a business whose practices can be vastly more invasive than those of the original nonconforming use. [Like 1 ice house --> 2 body shops, which is what happened on Franklin St. with the city’s blessings.] Let's also change the code to bring accountability to "bad neighbor" businesses that consistently indulge in invasive practices. No business should have the privilege of a permit in perpetuity if it abuses that privilege to the detriment of the neighborhood. That isn't right.
William D March 31, 2013 at 03:05 AM
I have had much of the same problem with an auto business in Pasco County Florida , it took me 4 years to get their business activity off our residential streets, and it was just me fighting against the business , they have some friends in the neighboirhood . NOW IT'S PAINT FUMES and THEY HAVE INDUSTRIAL LIGHTS AIMED IN SUCH A WAY SO THAT WHEN WE STEP OUT OF THE HOUSE , WE ARE BLINDED AT NIGHT , THESE ARE ILLEGAL BUT COUNTY MAKES ME JUMP THROUGH HOOPS TO GET ANYTHING DONE ; THERE HAS TO BE AWAY TO SUE TO COUNTY EVENTUALLY . A lot of these auto shops have been used to getting by with murder , and they don't like anybody telling them what to do, there appears to be a lot of criminality behind the curtain that isn't seen . 727-517-6390 Us that are having these problems need to join forces , and get action . Ripe for a class action lawsuit .
William D March 31, 2013 at 03:15 AM
The municipalities of various communities need to step up on this, and enforce residential community protections , and enforce compliance by all of such types of businesses so one isn't forced to do things that another isn't ; but especially when a business opens up 15 feet away from the nearest house of a residential community , they should be decent enough to take extra measures not to be a nuisance, and cause potential health problems and other problems for neighbors , they contribute to giving a bad reputation to the industry, when they dont . We will something done if we work together . Why on earth these people don't want to be respectful is beyond me, and often city personnel are complicit .
William D March 31, 2013 at 03:24 AM
This link below may work . http://www.tumblr.com/blog/badautobusinessofflorida This business now has..... NAPA AUTO..... signs all around it . It appears that NAPA does't care what kind of business it's sign are on .
William D March 31, 2013 at 12:52 PM
I have had the same problem going on here in Florida, Pasco county . I visit my Mom and mow the yard , and find my eyes burning from paint fumes of an AUTO BUSINESS the new person in charge at the county environmental dept. has basically told me he doesn't care what he is doing . if he's found not to be operating legally , he will give him another warning ( just as usual ) and give him time to make changes / never a fine in 8 years ; no incentive to operate legal . William Draper 727-517-6390
William D March 31, 2013 at 01:32 PM
QUESTION: Can auto paint fumes harm unborn baby? 05 Apr 2003, Pennsylvania USA I work in the auto body repair shop. the paint is petroleum based. i'm not sure if it has lead in it or not. i work in the office but worried that the paint fumes can travel into the office and harm my unborn baby. do you know? Dear Tami, There are certainly some co... paints which can harm your unborn baby but it is not clear to me whether you are being exposed to the fumes in sufficient concentrations to cause a problem. Also, there may or may not be lead in the paint depending on the colour of the paint. Are you also exposed to dust particles when the vehicles are being prepared for re-painting? If the older paints that are already on the vehicles are released into the air during sanding of the surface, then the fine paint dust may also travel to your office imperceptibly..... For example, the reported reproductive hazards of toluene include menstrual and other gynaecological disorders, low birth weight, birth defects and spontaneous abortions. See www.lead.org.au/fs/fst7.html for reproductive hazards of lead. it is not safe to assume that there is no lead exposure. By this time however, you may have asked too many questions but hopefully that won't stop you. US occupational health and safety regulations asked the Global Lead Advice and Support Service. edited to fit in space..... see link next comment
William D March 31, 2013 at 01:34 PM
see full article above through this link . http://www.lead.org.au/q&a/2003/auto_paint_&_unborn_baby_20030405001.html
William D March 31, 2013 at 01:56 PM
Business gets fined for such kind of operation . NOT HERE IN FLORIDA OF COURSE http://www.qchron.com/editions/western/homeowners-unable-to-breathe/article_3d46a48f-5105-5e78-b0a5-e21b96a17cc1.html
William D April 01, 2013 at 10:54 PM
Here is my meetup group site for one to discuss these things , also a video of my elderly mother having had to deal with the nuisance found in this community; web link is misleading no association with any government . .http://www.meetup.com/Action-Department-of-Family-Services-Children/messages/boards/thread/32311392


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