WATERVILLE — The vacant apartment building at 26 Gold St. in the city’s South End is infested with cockroaches, fleas and bedbugs, the neighbors say.

Teenagers get into it to drink liquor, stray cats have litters of kittens in the building and vandals have gone in and stolen refrigerators, stoves and other appliances.

Beyond that, David LaFountain, the city’s fire chief, said that in June someone set a fire upstairs and burned a room. No one has been charged in that arson.

Code Enforcement Officer Garth Collins condemned the building in July 2013 and ordered the tenants out.

“It’s kind of a nightmare,” Collins said Wednesday. “It’s a three-family apartment building, and it’s just been totally neglected for years and years and years. The roof is all rotted, the porches on the side are all rotted and dangerous to even walk on, and windows are broken.

The City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday to discuss whether to declare the building dangerous, have the city take it over, tear it down and send the bill to the current owner, Lakeside Portfolio Management LLC, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.


After the hearing, councilors are expected to vote on the matter.

“The owners have 30 days to appeal the decision. If not, we tear it down and bill them,” Collins said.

He said the building should have been torn down years ago, but it keeps changing hands. Every time the city contacts an owner, that owner sells it to another company, he said.

The city notified Lakeside recently of the council’s upcoming hearing and vote, according to Collins. He estimates it will cost $10,000 to raze the building.

The structure has a history of being owned by absentee landlords, including multiple foreclosures and sales between out-of-state entites.

In 1984, People’s Heritage Savings Bank foreclosed on the property and sold it to a Melrose, Mass., couple the next year. It was sold to a local man in 2003, but HSBC Bank, a bank that specialized in making sub-prime loans to people who could not qualify for traditional loans, foreclosed on the property in 2011. HSBC, which eventually wrote off $20 billion in sub-prime lending losses, transferred the property in December 2011 to an entity called Mom Haven 13, of Dallas, which then transferred it to a Phoenix entity in 2013. In January, 26 Gold St. became the property of Lakeside, which is based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.


At the site Wednesday afternoon, the doors and some windows were boarded up, other windows broken, and trash and old bedding littered on the lawn, which is overgrown with grass and weeds. A couch, old computer equipment and other refuse were piled under an outside deck.

Next-door neighbor Kerry Vargas, 50, said she calls police all the time because teens get inside the building to drink and party.

“On windy days, shingles fly off the roof and hit me in the head,” Vargas said. “The fire was very dangerous, and we were all scared because we all have children. You don’t know what’s going on in there. You see (cigarette) lighters flickering.”

Vargas, who said she is dying of cirrhosis of the liver and suffers from heart failure, plans to attend Tuesday’s hearing and urge councilors to tear the building down.

Mike Labbe, 56, who lives in a house just behind and diagonal to the condemned building, said stray cats are always getting inside it.

“They keep having kittens in there, and I keep taking the kittens out and finding them homes,” Labbe said. “When the fire happened on the third floor, the kittens were under the house and the firemen were going to board it up. I crawled into a hole under the middle of the house and grabbed the kittens and brought them out one by one. There were five of them. Two died. The inside of the house on the bottom floor is so full of fleas and bedbugs and cockroaches, all you have to do is go in there and you’ll be running out.”


Labbe said people throw trash into and around the building, and he is worried that if it catches on fire, it would spread to his own house and endanger the lives of his eight cats.

“I have to keep an eye on it at night so they don’t start it on fire,” he said. “Everybody keeps saying they’re going to burn the place down.”

Meanwhile, Collins said there are other dilapidated buildings in the city, but the one on Gold Street is the worst.

“I really don’t have anything as bad as this one,” he said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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