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Town cites Owasco farm for illegally housing workers

The owner of an Owasco farm currently under investigation by several local and state government agencies was summoned to court later this month for illegally housing workers on his farm for months.

On Thursday night, town of Owasco code enforcement officer J. Patrick Doyle visited Melrose Farm to inspect a building that the farm’s owner had been using to house employees, town Supervisor Ed Wagner told The Citizen Monday. The building Doyle came to inspect had been cited by the town in February and at that time, Joe Tidd was ordered to stop housing workers in that structure until it was brought up to code. The structure was also cited by the Cayuga County Health Department in February for not having an acceptable septic system.

When Doyle got to the property last week, he called Tidd and asked for permission to enter the workers’ housing for an inspection. Tidd gave Doyle permission to enter the building, and admitted to Doyle on the phone that he would find people living in the shelter, Wagner said. In late August, Rebecca Fuentes of the Workers’ Center of Central New York came forward with letters from one farm employee and a workers’ center volunteer, both claiming Tidd continued to house workers in the structure despite the town’s early prohibition.

When Doyle knocked on the door, one of the workers answered and let him inside. According to Wagner, Doyle observed furniture and bedding in the living quarters. He immediately condemned the building and instructed Tidd to turn off the power and lock it up. The next day, Doyle returned to Melrose Farm and issued Tidd a ticket to appear in town of Owasco Court for “failure to comply with an order to remedy violation and a cease and desist order,” according to a copy of the ticket Wagner provided to The Citizen. Tidd is ordered to appear in court at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24.

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