WATERVILLE — Diana Foster is tired of looking at the towering shell of a burned-out house next door.

“It’s ridiculous how long it’s been here and nothing’s been done,” said Foster, of Oak Street. “In the summer we like to sit outside. We don’t want to look at this all summer.”

She was talking about a large, two-story house at 25 Oak St. that was destroyed by fire August 9.

The homeowner, Tracey Bragdon, has yet to have the charred structure demolished.

Repeated attempts by Code Enforcement Officer Garth Collins to get Bragdon to raze the structure have been fruitless. He has called repeatedly, sent certified letters and knocked on her door, to no avail, he said.

“I physically went to her apartment this morning and put a card on her door and said, ‘You need to contact us,'” Collins said Thursday.

“It (burned house) is really nasty. It’s a blight. It’s terrible that neighbors have to put up with it for so long.”

In his 12 years working for the city, Collins has never seen a homeowner ignore requests for so long, he said.

“Most people will comply,” he said. “Sometimes you have to push them, but they comply.”

Ward 2 resident Patrick Roy is circulating a petition asking the city to take action.

“There has got to be a push to get this done,” Roy said. “It’s a nuisance, it’s a hazard and it’s an eyesore.”

The petition is at Juliette’s Bakery on Ticonic Street. As of Friday, it had more than 100 signatures.

City Solicitor William Lee said Friday that City Manager Michael Roy asked him to start looking at the process for having the structure declared a dangerous building.

Lee said the city has two options. It may go to court to get a court order to have the building demolished or request that the City Council order it demolished (and the property owner would be entitled to a hearing before the council).

The cost of demolition would be assessed against the property and if it is not paid, a lien could be placed on it and it would be subject to the automatic foreclosure process that real estate taxes are subject to.

Lee said the cost of demolition and removal of material could cost $7,500-$10,000.

Mayor Karen Heck said she sympathizes with the neighbors.

“I’m concerned about kids playing there and getting hurt, and people just having access to something that’s not safe,” Heck said. “I know that there is a process that’s proceeding. It’s frustrating for the neighbors and the rest of us because it’s very slow and the frustration is that the owner is ignoring her responsibility.”

Roy said he plans to give the petition next week to City Councilor George Myers Jr., D-Ward 2, to see what can be done.

Myers said Friday that he got a cellphone number for Bragdon Thursday night from one of her relatives and she told him she plans to apply for a loan to tear the Oak Street structure down and build a new house there.

Collins said he had previously tried that number, it was disconnected, and message he left Friday was not returned.

Messages left for Bragdon seeking comment were also not returned Friday.

At the burned house late last week, toys and furniture littered the driveway and the floor of what was left of the garage. The entryway to the house was wide open, offering a view of charred furniture and other items inside.

Foster pointed to pieces of tar paper that frequently blow onto her property from the burned house.

“It goes all over our cars,” she said. “It goes all over the lawn. It’s constant.”

Foster said cats live in the burned-out house and there is a stench when it’s rainy.

“Especially with the damp weather — that’s when you smell the burnt stuff.”

She said the neighbors also are complaining about the site.

“Every time somebody says something to me, my first comment to them is, call the city because you can complain amongst yourselves and not get anywhere, but if we all complain.”

After the fire at Bragdon’s house Aug. 9, she moved to a nearby apartment with her three children, and then to Fairfield.

In January, she was indicted by a Somerset County grand jury on charges of trafficking in prison contraband and possession of drugs. She was accused of possessing 6.5 grams of cocaine as she was being booked on domestic violence charges Dec. 18, at Somerset County Jail in East Madison.

In March, she was sentenced to 30-day jail sentences for each of the two domestic violence counts.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]


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