Sunday, December 8, 2013
WATERVILLE — People living near a burned-out house at 5 Elm Court sought help Tuesday from city councilors, saying glass and other debris blow onto their properties from the site.
This home on Elm Court in Waterville was destroyed by fire on August 25. Neighbors are hoping the Texas bank that owns the building will tear it down soon.
Staff photo by David Leaming
This is not the first time the neighbors have complained about the house, which state fire officials say was the site of an arson fire last month.
Code Enforcement Officer Garth Collins said recently that the site is not dangerous and the building will not fall down and kill someone.
But Wes Berry, who lives next to the building, said it is a mess.
“Over 20 windows there are broken, and most of the glass is lying on the ground,” he said.
Legally, he and others can do nothing to clean it up because a bank owns the property, he said. Council Chairman Erik Thomas said the city also legally may not clean it up.
City Manager Michael Roy said it’s common that when a building burns, resolving it with the insurance company takes a long time.
“Very, very often, as we’ve seen on Main Street for months, the buildings oftentimes don’t get addressed as quickly as people would like,” Roy said.
He was referring to a building at 18 Main St. downtown that burned May 3 and still has not been fixed or torn down. Roy said recently that he understood it would be razed and a one-story building built in its place.
Cheryl Jackson, who also lives next door to 5 Elm Court, said she cleans up glass at the site every day and her daughter was cut on the glass. Another neighbor, Christopher Carpenter, who is on oxygen, said his breathing is affected by the site.
“It raises cain with me, smelling that burned odor all the time, and I’m 25 feet away,” he said. “It (the fire) even broke windows in my house.”
Mayor Karen Heck said she sympathized, as the city is in a similar situation with two downtown buildings and the banks do not respond to the city’s request for action.
“There’s a lawyer working on that particular issue,” Heck said. “This is a bank failure across the country for these banks that are not fulfilling their responsibilities, and they’re getting away with it.”
Heck said she would speak with Pam Trinward, a representative for U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, about the issue, and she encouraged the neighbors to do the same.
“You’re right to come and complain, because the squeaky wheel sort of gets things going,” Heck said.
Randy Frappier, who also lives near the fire site, said police have patrolled more in the neighborhood as requested and have been responsive, but neighbors would like officers to come more frequently.
That prompted Heck to say she has asked for another police officer and code enforcement officer in the municipal budget; but Waterville, like other communities, did not get the money the state owes it.
“I can’t stress enough that you tell representatives and the governor that they owe us money,” she said. “The money they did not send us this year was money you ended up paying in your taxes.”
Berry said a police officer came to Elm Court recently, stayed for 20 minutes, spoke with neighbors and listened to them and gave stickers to a young girl.
“That’s old-time police work. It’s what we need,” he said.
Heck said that was good to hear.
“I do hear good reports about police from people, (even those) who are stopped by them,” she said.
In other matters, the council voted to declare a vacancy in the Ward 2 council seat vacated by Michael Owens, who is moving out of the ward.
City Clerk Patti Dubois said applicants for the seat should send letters of interest to her office by 5 p.m. Sept. 27.
Councilors might appoint someone to fill the remainder of Owens’ term or wait until the election in November to fill the spot. Edward Lachowicz is the only candidate on the ballot for the Ward 2 seat.
Amy Calder — 861-9247