TORRINGTON – Not even Goshen County can escape parking violations.
In South Torrington, just outside of city limits, a man puts the finishing touches on the fresh coat of paint on his house as the sun shines down. His neighbor, a woman with graying hair, stands outside with a broom in her hand, sweeping grass clippings off her walkway from her freshly cut lawn. A few houses down, a car has been sitting on the side of the road for several months. Its front bumper has fallen off and its two front tires are missing. The back tires are completely deflated and the whole thing is stuck in the mud.
A street over has another salvaged car with missing tires and no front or back bumper. Rust covers the once shiny blue paint. On the end of another street, parked half in the bushes of the dead end, is an inoperable pickup truck with no license plate.
On East 2nd Avenue sits M&T Recycling. There’s no fence and no way to pull into the loading zone. Refrigerators, trailers, cars, tires, washing machines and a red wooden door all sit piled into a mammoth of a cleanup job.
While Albert Lira doesn’t live in South Torrington anymore, his sister and his son do. He also keeps a small piece of land there. When he drives down to take care of his animals, he passes cars and trailers that sit right on the side of the road. Vehicles too close to the road make it impossible for children walking home from the bus stop to safely walk off to the side and should one of the frequent speeding drivers come through, the potential consequences would be devastating.
Lira works with Torrington Emergency Medical Services as a medic and volunteers with the Torrington Volunteer Fire Department. He always has his pager on him in case he needs to drop everything and run. With his background as a first responder, he has also paid special attention to the state of the easement on one man’s property. It’s cluttered with cars and other obstacles, making it impossible for ambulances, fire trucks, community service vehicles and others to get through.
Lira has put in countless hours of his own personal time to help fix the problems facing the residents of South Torrington. He has gathered letters of support from the Fire Department, the County Coroner’s Office and even the Senior Friendship Center on East A Street in Torrington. Lira has also put together a petition to the Goshen County Commission to “require enforcement of violations of the law.”
The violations listed on the petition pertain to abandoned vehicles, parked vehicles near fire hydrants and driveways, nuisances and animals running at large. Lira went door-to-door in South Torrington gathering signatures for the petition. At the Goshen County Commissioners Meeting on Oct. 5, Lira presented the petition and the letters of support to the Commission, requesting their support.
“I want to thank you, Albert, for what you’ve done,” Commissioner John Ellis said during the meeting.
At a previous commissioners meeting in June of this year, Lira brought up the same concerns but felt unprepared to share them in the way he was able to at the Oct. 5 meeting.
“When I first heard about the meeting, I thought, ‘Well, heck, I need to go to that.’ I had like 30 minutes, so I made arrangements,” Lira said.
Lira met up with a group of other meeting-goers to present their case before the commission. At the time, however, there wasn’t much to present. Lira hadn’t had the chance to put together a presentation or to gather signatures for a petition. Despite his protests, he ended up speaking before the Commission.
“I actually was just going to come in and listen and see what was going on. Well, long story short, I was speaking for [the other residents] also.”
At the end of the meeting, County Attorney Eric Boyer mentioned the Commission’s best option at that time might be to annex South Torrington into the city. The annexation would expand the city’s limits to encompass all of South Torrington, meaning all residents would go from being county residents to city residents. Utility bills would change and so could property taxes. Primary law enforcement responsibilities would also shift from the sheriff’s department to the Torrington Police Department.
Lira wasn’t prepared to address the idea of annexation at that time, so he left the meeting with a will to find out what exactly it meant for the residents of South Torrington. After talking with several officials and doing his research, Lira took a survey with him as he went door-to-door with the petition, asking everyone else’s thoughts on becoming city residents. He presented the survey along with the petition at the Commissioners meeting. The answer from South Torrington was a resounding “no, thank you.”
“This isn’t something annexation is going to fix,” Lira said at the meeting.
While Lira doesn’t live in South Torrington anymore, he still cares about it like he does. He worries about his sister and his son living there; where it isn’t clean, and it isn’t safe. At the same time, Lira envisions a brighter future for South Torrington as a county neighborhood with clean streets and respectable homes.
“I think it’s a starting point to get more stuff done down there that we need to do to make it safer. I mean, a better quality of life for everybody.”
As Lira has made the rounds in South Torrington with the petition and the survey, the conversations he’s had have surprised him. While approaching houses with cars parked illegally, he didn’t always have high hopes for the coming conversations. The results of those conversations have given him hope for South Torrington.
One man had a trailer parked right on the side of the street. As Lira chatted with him, he said he would absolutely be willing to move his trailer. He and his wife had big plans to build the only mobile salon in Wyoming with that trailer and wanted to remain as community-minded as possible.
The conversation with another neighbor didn’t go quite as well, but Lira explained to him anyway that he couldn’t see around this man’s wrecker parked right next to his driveway and it made it difficult for him to see any oncoming traffic headed his way. The next day, the wrecker was parked up closer to the house and Lira could clearly see the oncoming traffic as he pulled out.
Since the Oct. 5 commissioners meeting, Ellis has been in touch with Lira to assure him that he has the full support of the county behind him. The commission reports it is in talks with the Goshen County Attorney’s Office and the Goshen County Sheriff’s Department to help clean up South Torrington and enforce the ordinances there.
While there has yet to be any concrete action plan, the Goshen County Commissioners are very aware of the situation.
“We are determined to see if we can’t get something done,” Ellis said. “It’s went on too long down there. I’d like to be able to get it fixed and we’re working hard at it.”