As to things at 97 Mt. Ida Rd, judge hears of cat food that rats like, rebuffs owner’s pleas

Some of the hundreds of cans of cat food in and around 97 Mt. Ida Rd. Image from the court-appointed receiver's report.

A court-appointed receiver on Monday presented a housing court judge with photos showing hundreds of open cans of cat food piled up inside and outside of a house at 97 Mt. Ida Rd. that, he said, explains why rats keep flocking to the derelict property – they love the stuff as much as cats.

The property owner, James Dickey, acknowledged at the hearing that he was leaving open cans of cat food on the property, but it was to feed cats, he said. In response, Judge MaryLou Muirhead ordered him to stop doing it.

Muirhead took no other action in the more-than-a-decade-long spat between Dickey and the city of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) over the property. The agency says the house is a public safety nuisance that needs to be either made habitable again or torn down. Dickey’s response has been a series of lawsuits filed over the years, actions that for the most part he has been losing.

Mayor Martin Walsh remarked on the longstanding blight at a coffee hour in Ronan Park on Tuesday while standing a short walk from the house.
“That house has been that way since I’ve been in office,” he recalled. “I got elected in ’97. I represented this side of the park, Ronan Park,” gesturing to the east. “Marie St. Fleur represented this side. We met in the middle and I know that that’s always been an issue. Inspectional Services has done an incredible job of going after these properties that are problem properties. We just need some help from the housing courts to kind of expedite some of these programs. If they pushed further faster, some of these projects that are problem properties, some of these houses and properties, we can actually do some good stuff with them.”

Stuart Schrier of Dorchester, appointed by the court as a receiver to resolve the matter, told Muirhead on Monday that in addition to observing the empty cat-food cans, he also left some poisoned rat-food bait and then returned to find most of it apparently eaten.

At the hearing, Dickey blamed the rats on the city, which he claimed broke the connection between the street sewer main and the house, leaving it open to rat invasions. “They’re responsible,” he charged.

“Do not feed the cats,” the judge retorted. “It’s ill advised.”

Schrier told Muirhead that despite the damage from a 2011 fire, he thinks the house is salvageable, and that it could bring $500,000 even in its current state and as much as $1.5 million if it were fully rehabbed and turned into three condos because of its prime location across from Ronan Park on a hill overlooking the harbor. 

He acknowledged it would take a lot of work - he said he was unable to get into the basement or upper floors because of all the material crammed into the first floor and because the main stairs have been burned away. He noted that the entire first floor was filled with debris left over from the 2011 fire and estimated that it would take at least two large dumpsters to cart away all the trash inside.

Murhead said she would review Dickey’s motion to have Schrier removed as a receiver in the case, but this came after she had come within a hair’s breadth of having a court officer physically remove Dickey from her courtroom.

Dickey tried to explain his request for Schrier’s removal by bringing up another receiver and another house, which he does not own. The connection was that Schrier served as that receiver’s lawyer during a court case. Muirhead said she did not want to hear about a receiver or case that had nothing to do with 97 Mt. Ida Rd.

“I think we’re done with this conversation,” she told Dickey. “You can’t do that,” he replied, as the court officer got up from his seat near the judge’s bench. “You can’t stop me from talking.” And he then tried to bring up the other house again.

“I’m done hearing about the other case,” Muirhead said, as the court officer moved closer to Dickey. “I do not need to hear any more.”
“Yes, you do!” Dickey replied. The judge ordered him to sit down. He didn’t and continued, saying, “I have a right to be heard!”

“You have a right to be heard about 97 Mt. Ida Rd, the judge replied. She said she would look at the documentation Dickey filed explaining his case to have Schrier removed, then said she was done hearing about the other house – and that if Dickey said one more word, “the court officer will help you out [of the court].” Finally, Dickey was quiet.

Reporter news editor Jennifer Smith contributed to this article, which was published by Universal Hub on Monday. The Reporter and Universal Hub have a longstanding agreement to share resources and stories related to Dorchester.