GROTON — Four months after voting to give Lawrence Johnson time to clean up his property at 366 Lost Lake Drive, the Board of Health was still at it Monday, giving Johnson two weeks to complete the cleanup or face court action.
Coincidentally, the deadline was the same as that given to Johnson by the board last March — with little or no progress shown since then, according to Health Agent Ira Grossman.
The Board of Health first ordered Johnson to clean up his property in 2004, and has been working with succeeding health agents to help him do it ever since.
The board initially responded to complaints from Johnson’s neighbors before charging Johnson with a violation of the health code dealing with scattered, disorderly debris on a private property that could present a fire hazard or become a haven for animals and vermin.
According to former Health Agent Ben Cutone, Johnson’s property had been littered with old cars, wood, metal parts, swimming-pool equipment and many other items.
Grossman, the current health agent, confirmed at a March hearing that while Johnson had worked to remove the debris, “very little” had been accomplished.
At the time, Johnson explained that he had a family emergency and was unable to meet a deadline set by the board. He raised that excuse again Monday night.
In a virtual repeat of the March meeting, Grossman once again reported to board members that he was “not overly impressed with progress” made on Johnson’s property, admitting that a small area in front had been cleared but that overall, improvement remained “minimal.”
“I just didn’t make as much progress as I thought,” replied Johnson, adding that most of the work he had done took place out of sight behind the house. “There has been progress, just not as much as before.”
Board of Health Chairman Susan Horowitz said it was difficult for her to judge what, if any, progress had been made when she recently passed by the property.
A neighbor at the hearing said that standing back from the property, there had been no change so far as he could see.
Johnson, however, insisted things were improving.
“There’s no reason why it should be so hard (to clean up the property),” said Horowitz before suggesting the board order that at least two old cars be removed and a full quadrant of the property be completely cleaned up within two weeks or court action aimed at possible condemnation would ensue.
The motion passed, 3-0, with Horowitz joined by fellow members Jason Weber and Robert Fleischer.
Also Monday, board members found there was little they could do about non-compliance issues at the Groton Convenience Store due to the fact that owner Ghanshyam Patel was on extended vacation to India.
Patel was scheduled to appear before the board to address progress on non-compliance with a number of health-code violations, including water quality, the hiring of a person to oversee water-quality issues, proper maintenance of the store’s septic system, and pest control dealing with mice.
Although represented Monday night by a store manager who told the board that coffee and food sales at the store had been suspended, the owner wasn’t present.
When asked why, board members were told that Patel was in India.
“Bombay isn’t exactly the outback,” said Weber after the manager said he could not contact Patel to acquire permission to move on remedies to the non-compliance issues. “Can’t you write him or email him about the situation?”
The store manager said he would continue trying to reach Patel and that in the meantime, he had lined up contractors to address the violations.
But with a deadline of Oct. 31 looming for approval of the Boston Road establishment’s food-service permit, action would need to be taken quickly.
The board then voted to continue the public hearing until Aug. 6.