AUGUSTA — Some city councilors remain wary of accepting the donation of a vacant, partially falling-down building at 11 State St., though city staff members think the city probably will end up with the building and need to tear it down anyway.

Staff members recommended the city accept the donation of 11 State St. from its current owners, Anthony Thomas and Le Nhu Truong, and demolish it and an adjacent, also uninhabitable, building at 15 Morton Place, and combine the lots into one potentially marketable vacant lot.

The four-unit apartment building at 11 State St. was ordered vacated by the city code department in 2012 because of building code violations including an unsafe, dilapidated front deck structure that is the only way to get to three upper-level apartments. It has been vacant ever since.

The back deck and stairway structure of the State Street building, according to Rob Overton, a city code enforcement officer, is in such poor condition it appears to be held in place by the adjacent building at 15 Morton Place.

The city already owns the adjacent property at 15 Morton Place, according to William Bridgeo, city manager, having taken it for nonpayment of taxes.

Bridgeo said the city considers both the State Street and Morton Place buildings dangerous firetraps.

“One of the concerns is the two properties, together, are an attractive nuisance,” Bridgeo said. “There have been squatters in both of them, and sometimes squatters start fires.”

So Bridgeo said he, Development Director Matt Nazar and Fire Chief Roger Audette recommended city councilors accept the donation of 11 State St., tear that down, too, and make one potentially more marketable combined lot.

At the request of Ward 1 Councilor Linda Conti, the city had an asset search done about Thomas, the owner and potential donor of the State Street building, to see if the city could seek a judgment against him or find some other way to get him to contribute to the cost of demolishing the building. She said the city should be careful not to set a precedent of providing owners of dilapidated buildings with an easy way to get rid of them and avoid demolition costs, by donating them to the city.

Bridgeo said the city looked into the building owner’s finances and determined he did not have any substantial assets. He said the owner owns another apartment building in Augusta with one apartment in it that cannot be rented out because of code violations.

Stephen Langsdorf, city attorney, said the city could declare it a dangerous building and give the owner 30 days to tear it down. If no action is taken, the city could then have the building torn down and seek to recover the demolition costs by filing a lien on the property. If the lien remains unpaid, the city could end up owning the property.

“I think you’re pretty likely to end up in the same place, either route you take,” Langsdorf said.

Conti said “the only way I would vote to accept this as a gift” would be if accepting the donation would save the city money, compared to other options.

Councilors voted to table the issue until their next meeting, in part because neither of its sponsors, Councilors Darek Grant and Marci Alexander, was at Thursday’s meeting.

Overton said he ordered Thomas to repair or remove the State Street building but Thomas told him he didn’t have the money to do so. Thomas offered it to the city instead.

Bridgeo said demolition of both buildings will be costly, “because there is asbestos all over the place in both these buildings.” He said the city would seek bids on the cost of both asbestos removal and demolition of the structures.

The State Street property is assessed, by the city for tax purposes, at $60,800. The three-story, brown-and-green building was built in 1885. Thomas bought the property in 2014 for $20,000, according to city assessing records.

The red-and-brown four-unit vacant building at 15 Morton Place is assessed at $85,100, and was built in 1900, according to city records.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj