WEBSTER (CBS/AP) — Administrators in the small Massachusetts town of Webster are using shame and embarrassment to motivate neglectful property owners.

Selectmen in the community of about 16,000 residents nearly 60 miles southwest of Boston, want to post 4-by-8 foot signs on the sides of abandoned, dilapidated buildings. Those signs would have the property owners’ names on them.

“This property alone that’s behind me cost us over $9,000 in the past year just to keep it maintained and safe,” said Deborah Keefe, the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen.

WBZ News Radio’s Carl Stevens reports.

Selectman Mark Dowgiewicz came up with the idea when he learned that nuisance properties cost the town as much as $9,000 per year for police responses to deal with squatters and other problems. The signs, they believe, would help.

“When you’re going by the property, you would know who the owner is and the contact information about this property so that if you wanted to express a concern to the owner, then you could call them directly,” said Keefe.

WBZ-TV’s Christina Hager reports.

Already, even the threat of a shaming sign has moved at least one property owner to pony up.

Police have had a problem keeping homeless people out of a dangerous, condemned building on Pearl Street. The bank to which it foreclosed, Wells Fargo, contacted Webster officials Tuesday and promised to secure it.

Webster’s building and health inspectors have made up a list of the ten worst properties they plan to target, but they say there are many others.

The town administrator, meanwhile, is investigating the legality of the signs.

WBZ-TV’s Christina Hager contributed to this report.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  1. Ron says:

    In one small town in NY, rundown properties were sold for ridiculously low prices ($1 and such, and even included the land) with the condition that the new owner had to fix it up w/in a certain time period. I never found out if the properties were seized from the owners, or if they were just abandoned w/ no ownership at all. There was one “famously” horrific eyesore of a place in an otherwise beautiful neighborhood that was a part of that plan and residents applauded the action.

    The big downside is the slippery slope that could lead to.

    My only concern on this story: I do have to wonder, if there are squatters, are the owners anywhere around? If the owners have just bailed, or already don’t live anywhere nearby, the signs won’t have an effect.

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