Oswego landlord says kids are living in deplorable conditions

An Oswego County landlord feels authorities have not done enough to protect five children who he says are living in deplorable conditions. CNY Central is not releasing the identity of the parents out of consideration for their five children, all of whom are under the age of six.

Landlord Tom Kells says the parents have been cited three times in the past year for garbage and other problems at the home at 26 East 7th Street in the City of Oswego. The latest citation occurred yesterday after the Oswego Codes Enforcement Office ordered the couple to replace smoke detectors and lighting that were not operating, as well as to clean up the home of garbage and clutter to return it to a sanitary condition.

Kells says officials should also report the couple to the Child Abuse Hotline in Albany so there could be an investigation into the living conditions the children have to endure. Kells says he himself will call the Hotline if local officials do not.

Contacted by phone, Codes Enforcement Director Neal Smith says the living conditions were "bad, but I've seen worse." Nevertheless, Smith understands why Kells would be concerned for the children's safety.

The couple would not allow CNY Central to record video of the conditions inside the home, but they did allow reporter Jim Kenyon to enter. Kenyon observed bags of garbage in the front foyer, a lot of clutter in the living area, a strong odor of urine, and a number of flies and other bugs. The children sleep on unkempt mattresses on the floor.

The parents say, however, that their caseworkers and the children's teachers have been in the home on numerous occassions, and they were never cited for neglect. They claim Kells is "exaggerating" the living conditions as he seeks to evict them from the apartment.

The story focuses attention on an upcoming series of community forums by the Oswego County Child Protection Advisory Council. Those forums will seek public input about alleged child abuse in the county, as well as share information about what people should do if they suspect abuse or neglect. The Council was formed a year ago, following the death of 11-year-old Erin Maxwell, who was forced to live in a home full of animals, garbage, and feces in Palermo.

Last year, Oswego County also investigated another home with deplorable conditions. Click here to read coverage of that story.