DEC investigates work at city councilman's property

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The same City of Utica Codes Department that issued Utica First Ward Councilman Frank Vescera a permit for demolition work at his property at 635 Mary Street has issued a stop work order, compelling him to halt the work.

Over the weekend, someone called 9-1-1 to report smoke in the area of Vescera's business, K Music, at 1155 Mohawk Street. City firefighters who responded noticed a wood stove and what appeared to be wood construction debris near a pile of firewood outside the building. The wood was determined to be from Vescera's property at 635 Mary Street.

"I received an email, from the responding officer, stating he was concerned there might be some sort of construction debris being burned," says Chief City Fire Marshal Raymond Beck.

The Oneida County Health Department tested paint on wood at both Mary Street and K Music and found that both contained lead.

"We don't burn anything that has lead on it, that we know. We've been doing this since the mid 70s," says Vescera.

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation is investigating. D.E.C. officials there say that it's illegal to even store wood with lead-based paint; they say that, by law, it has to go directly from its original setting to a landfill.

Vescera says the entire investigation is politically motivated by a fire department that is no fan of him.

"And I find it very coincidental. The fire department's been here many times....never brought it up now until this time when I've been very vocal about doing away with overtime at the fire department," says Vescera.

Chief Fire Marshal Beck says it's just business as usual.

"I received an email and read the narrative from the responding officer and he did have concerns and I just forwarded these concerns to the proper agencies. And we do this on a daily basis," says Beck.

Vescera has complied with the stop work order and is waiting to hear back from the city as to what he needs to do to resume work at 635 Mary Street.

No tickets or citations have been issued, by NYS DEC, as of yet.

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