Revere’s highest officials are irate at Everett State Rep. Steve ‘Stat’ Smith (D-Everett) for dragging his feet in fixing code violations and fire safety violations uncovered last month at a Yeamans Street property that contained some 12 illegal apartments.
Mayor Dan Rizzo said this week Smith has not even come close to satisfying city investigators over the past month since the situation was uncovered, and so Rizzo has ordered all city officials to hold Smith to a higher standard.
“Smith should be held to a higher standard,” said Rizzo. “I am outraged that someone from Everett, where there is a campaign to rid that city of illegal apartments, came to Revere and filled a building with illegal apartments. I have instructed everyone in city government having something to do with this to hold Smith accountable and to fine him if necessary. Revere will not tolerate this type of behavior, from a representative no less. I cannot believe he has yet to do anything meaningful to correct the situation he finds himself in. I am bothered by this. If anyone in Revere city government having something to do with enforcing the laws with Smith is not doing so, there will be severe repercussions.
“Smith should be treated like anyone else and that includes fining him, if legal and necessary, or taking him to court,” continued the mayor.
Smith returned a phone call from the Journal late on Tuesday and said he is fully cooperating.
“I’ve done everything they asked and I’ve done it immediately,” he said. “What happened was I submitted my architect’s plan and there was a problem with one door that we didn’t know about. They asked me to fix the door on the plans and that’s what I’m doing. I’m doing everything just like they say…I’m not stalling and I want the plan done as soon as possible. I’m kind of at the architect’s mercy and it’s taking him longer than I thought. I keep calling him. Once that’s done, it will all be done in just a matter of days. It’s not really a major correction except for the mix up on that door.”
He also said that the apartments weren’t really illegal.
“It’s not really an illegal apartment,” he said. “The only thing illegal is I put kitchenettes in and once those kitchenettes are out – they are out – then they’re not illegal,” he said.
When asked if the apartments would have kitchens, Smith indicated, “they can share with the others.”
On further questioning about the kitchens, though, Smith said that the illegal apartments actually would have kitchens. In fact, he said that the apartments actually had two kitchens beforehand – one regular kitchen and one kitchenette. Now, the kitchenettes have been removed and there is only one regular kitchen in the illegal apartments, he said.
Fire Chief Gene Doherty said they have had ongoing problems with getting Smith to replace his fire alarm system. In fact, he said that they plan to take him to Chelsea District Court next week if the matter isn’t rectified.
“I don’t want to say he’s playing a game, but he’s playing a game with us,” said Doherty. “He knows how the system works and how to delay things.”
The Chief said they asked him to put in a new fire alarm system, but so far, Smith’s contractor has only made basic repairs on the existing, inadequate system.
“We told him our next step is Chelsea District Court,” said the Chief. “Even if he pulls all the illegal apartments out, we are still going to order him to put in a different fire alarm system. He might be able to fight it, but we believe we’re in the right on this. If he doesn’t come in with plans and a contract for the work we’ve ordered, we’ll go into court next week.”
Smith said he plans on doing everything that Doherty calls for with the fire system.
“I’m doing everything the fire department asked me and the building department asked me as quickly as I can,” he said. “We’re doing that (fire alarm system). We’re getting some bids on that and the system they want in, we’ll put in.”
Meanwhile, Doherty said that another blighted property owned by Rep. Smith in Revere has also come into question.
That property on the corner of American Legion Highway and Revere Street – which is a flower market – has structures on it that Doherty said don’t appear to be safe.
“I’ve sent an inspector down there because there are sheds built that only have plastic sheeting for a roof,” said Doherty. “We definitely have concerns with putting plastic sheeting over that. It’s very flammable and if it ignites, it will go right up. We are talking with the Building Department now about what those structures are and if they are legal or not.”
Inspectional Services Department (ISD) Director Nick Catinazzo said that Smith is being fined on a daily basis. He said, though, that the fines don’t seem to be making a difference in the pace of Smith’s work.
Catinazzo said that he and Building Inspector Ben DeChristoforo met with Smith last Thursday, and he indicated that he had plans to make several different repairs. However, so far, Catinazzo said Smith has not followed through on those promises.
On May 17th, Fire Inspectors responded to a complaint about a fire alarm at the properties in question – 26-28 Yeamans and 30-32 Yeamans.
What they found, allegedly, was one of the worst illegal apartment situations they’ve ever come across – and they’ve come across a lot of them over the years.
Smith had 12 illegal apartments in a 12-unit complex, giving him 24 total units in the two structures. Many people were allegedly paying cash, and at rates of about $700 per month.
There were numerous fire code violations, including missing smoke detectors and mission carbon monoxide detectors, and a few building code violations.