AUGUSTA — A city plan to demolish six buildings the city has acquired for tax nonpayment has one councilor asking if at least one of them could be sold instead.

City facilities staff recommended the city demolish six buildings acquired for nonpayment and deemed unsafe.

All of the buildings are considered by the city codes and facilities staff to be structurally unsafe, unlikely to survive winter or so badly maintained they have to be demolished as soon as possible to remove health and safety hazards to the public, according to Matt Nazar, development director, and Bob LaBreck, facilities manager.

But at-large Councilor Dale McCormick said the city should look into selling, not demolishing the single family home at 18 Greenlief St.

“That looks like the one that maybe could be the most historic,” McCormick said. “Has it been on the market? Might there be someone who is interested in rehabbing it? The lesson of urban renewal, in the 60s and 70s, cities and towns tore down lots of buildings, and now regret it.”

Nazar said the house, which is on the east side in the Cony Street neighborhood, hasn’t been heated in several years and the basement filled with water. The water froze and cracked the foundation, so it’s no longer structurally sound. The water in the building also caused extensive mold throughout the house. He said the building could collapse from the weight of snow if it’s still standing by winter.

It would cost the city $8,240 to tear down the building, which was built around 1900, according to city records.

Nazar suggested the city appropriate the money to tear down the building, but send the issue of what to do with it to a city committee that determines what to do with tax-acquired property in the city. If the committee recommends selling it, the city could try.

However Nazar recommended that if it’s sold, it should be with a deed restriction requiring it to be either torn down or have its foundation fixed by winter.

McCormick said that sounded like a good compromise.

The property overall is assessed by the city at $67,400, and the house itself is worth $49,600 of that total value.

Councilors will likely vote on appropriating funding for the demolition of all six buildings at their next business meeting, scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 7.

The other buildings, and the cost to demolish each, are; a two-story former warehouse at 36 Maple St., $32,960; another building at 36 Maple St., which already has collapsed, $29,870; a single-story garage on the end of Penobscot Street, $2,575; a two-story single-family home and a one-car garage at 4 Chase Ave., $6,695; and a two-story home at 13 North St., $8,240.

The total cost to demolish all the structures is estimated at $128,580, including the anticipated cost of removing asbestos. City Manager William Bridgeo said he recommends the cost of demolishing the buildings be covered from the city’s fund balance account, which generally consists of money unspent in previous years and used to pay for unanticipated expenses.

Also Thursday councilors discussed, briefly, sending the question of whether the superintendent of schools should continue to be required to live in the city to voters in a November referendum.

The city charter requires the school superintendent to live in Augusta.

In January, the Augusta Board of Education asked city councilors to put a proposed charter amendment removing the superintendent residency requirement on the November election ballot.

School board members have said requiring the superintendent to live in the city greatly limited the pool of candidates who applied for the then-open superintendent’s position when former Superintendent Cornelia Brown left last year. The board received only a handful of applications. Susan Campbell, board chairwoman, has said board members heard of multiple candidates who were interested in the job but didn’t apply because of the requirement to move to Augusta. Officials noted some of the would-be candidates didn’t want to relocate their families for the job.

As a result, they asked the council to ask voters to remove the superintendent residency requirement from the charter.

Bridgeo said typically the council honors such requests from the school board by placing such requested items on the ballot for voters to consider.

“There’s no need to deliberate about it at a council level,” Bridgeo said.

No councilors Thursday commented on the proposal.

Bridgeo said the city attorney would work on the language of the ballot question which could go to voters in November if councilors decide to place the question on the ballot.

Superintendent James Anastasio said superintendents’ average stay in one job nationally is only 18 months, though in Maine the average tenure is longer — about three years.

He said with that short of an average tenure with such jobs, applicants can be reluctant to apply for a superintendent’s job in the few communities which have residency requirements because it’d mean they would have to uproot their family to move to a new town for the job.

The requirements are rare for superintendents. Anastasio, who lives in Gardiner, said only three Maine communities require school superintendents to live in the municipality where their schools are located.

He was hired initially in 2013 as an interim superintendent through June 2015. However, in May the school board voted to extend his contract until 2018 and remove the interim designation July 1, 2015, giving him the job of superintendent through 2018.

Anastasio said if the charter doesn’t change, he’ll have to become a resident of Augusta later.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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