Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Long-time building official Eugene Bolles dies

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
March 14, 2007

VERNON - Zoning Enforcement Officer and long-time public servant Eugene F. Bolles died Tuesday afternoon following a sudden heart attack and short illness, town officials confirmed Wednesday.

Bolles, 73, was at his West Main Street office last week when he had to be rushed to the hospital because he was having difficulty breathing, Fire Chief Robert Kelley said. He was placed on a ventilator, but died on Tuesday afternoon, Kelley said.

Born in Bloomfield in July 1933, Bolles, a resident of Vernon, was remembered by town staff today as a true public servant who couldn't conceive of retirement as he loved his job enforcing town zoning regulations.

Mayor Ellen L. Marmer said Bolles' death was a tremendous blow to the community.

"He was not only a very dedicated public servant, but he had more knowledge and background in terms of building in his little finger than anybody I ever knew," Marmer said today. "It's a great loss."

Bolles grew up in Hartford, graduating from Bulkeley High School. In 1950, at age 17, he enlisted in the Air Force, serving as a medical administrator.

He was stationed just outside London for two years, where he witnessed the devastation left over from World War II.

In an interview with the Journal Inquirer in January 2000, Bolles said that deployment and seeing the destruction firsthand left its mark.

After a short stint in California, Bolles returned to Connecticut when he was discharged in 1953, and settled in Vernon in 1972.

A licensed electrician, Bolles was working at Williams Electric in Manchester in 1974 when he fell 10 feet from a ladder, seriously injuring his left hip and keeping him out of work for two years.

Bolles said in the January 2000 interview that the injury never healed properly and led to a degenerative situation. Since the late 1990s he had to walk with a cane. But he never let the injury prevent him from doing his job, which at times can call for strenuous climbs and hikes around construction areas.

Bolles, who served as building inspector and zoning enforcement officer since 1983, took pride in keeping up with the latest technological changes and various amendments to building codes over the years.

The task could be daunting and complex, but Bolles felt change produced better products, such as fire resistant materials like dry wall, and safer buildings as a result.

Marmer said that as he aged, Bolles never considered retirement because he wanted to continue serving the town.

Over the years he not only helped developers and homeowners get through the heavy volumes of code, but also was extremely protective of the community in a number of ways, Marmer said.

Last year, Bolles issued a cease and desist order against the Kellogg House, a state-funded group home on Union Street for abused and neglected boys on Union Street, effectively shutting it down.

The Department of Children and Families home had taken a different tack from its initial operations in violation of a 1997 zoning agreement with the town, Bolles said at the time.

In recent years, the Kellogg House had become home to young people with extensive delinquent backgrounds. As a result, police investigations at the facility skyrocketed during 2005, with police responding to the center 154 times, compared to the 62 responses in 2004.

Forever interested in keeping Vernon beautiful, Bolles also was instrumental in getting owners of the CVS Pharmacy on Talcottville Road to remove a flashing message board from a signpost near the store's main entrance.

He also pushed for legal action against landlords of blighted properties, and in 1998 spearheaded a drive to clean up blighted structures scattered throughout town, calling on residents to maintain their properties and keep Vernon clean.

In 2004, Bolles forced a Tolland landlord to board up and vacate a High Street apartment building in Rockville because of deplorable living conditions tenants were living in.

Bolles declared the building an "unsafe structure" for the four occupants - a husband and wife, and a young mother and her 10-month-old baby - due to unsanitary conditions, inadequate means of egress, a fire hazard, and "otherwise dangerous to human life or the public welfare."

In 1997, he had a personal dilemma in his professional life and was forced to shut down his own church, Sacred Heart Church on Hartford Turnpike, for safety reasons because of structural issues.

An awkward situation at best, Bolles dealt with the situation with mixed emotions, knowing that ultimately it was the right thing to do. The pyramid-shaped stone building remains closed to this day and the congregation worships at a nearby annex.

"He was a good employee and he will be missed thoroughly," Town Administrator Christopher Clark said, adding that town staff "wish all the best for his family at this difficult time."

©Journal Inquirer 2007