Dracut – Albert Catenacci, 73, settles boundary disputes as Dracut’s fence viewer. The retired general contractor has been the town’s on-call fence viewer for so long he can’t even remember the year he was appointed by the Board of Selectmen.
He has a pretty good record for neighborhood peacekeeping, and jokes nobody has tried to shoot him yet over property-line disagreements.
Q. How did you get the job of fence viewer?
A . (Former Dracut Selectman) Warren Shaw’s father had the job. He had it and he didn’t want to do it anymore. They asked me if I wanted to do it and I said, “yeah.” I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
Q. What exactly does a fence viewer do?
A . Basically a fence viewer tries to settle a boundary dispute between two neighbors. Someone will put up a fence to keep the dog or kids in the yard. But then again, you’re going to get a neighbor who’s going to put up a fence because he doesn’t like his neighbor. If there is a surveyor’s report, I look at where a fence can go and how high the fence can be. Most cases you can handle over the phone. I don’t even file reports for most of them are nonsensical. It comes down to the issue: “My neighbor’s putting up a fence and I don’t like it.” Maybe the neighbor is putting up a fence because they want to keep the dog in the yard and I say, well, do you want the dog in your yard?
Q. How much does the job of fence viewer pay?
A . You’re supposed to charge $5 for a personal complaint, but I don’t bother doing that. It’s not worth the trouble to file the paperwork for just $5. The town manager tells me I can file for mileage if I go out there to look at the fence, but I don’t bother with that either.
Q. Do good fences really make good neighbors?
A. That’s debatable. Some people put up a fence because they can’t get along with their neighbor, so it’s like “I want privacy and I don’t want to see you.” It’s not like the two neighbors are standing at the fence talking over the top of it. That happens in the movies or something like that.
Q. Why do you do this job?
A. For the heck of it. It keeps your brain working. It’s something that evidently goes way back to when farmers had disputes. But it’s not something that’s out of hand that would require someone working full time and going around checking out fences.