WATERVILLE — The former Levine’s clothing store building downtown is dangerous with aluminum siding falling off the outside, the sprinkler system shut off, a leaky roof and debris strewn around inside, according to Code Enforcement Officer Garth Collins.

Collins said recently that while the siding that has been peeling from the building is not heavy, if it flew into traffic in a wind, it could cause an accident.

Collins said he called the building’s owner, Michael Soracchi, of Milford, Conn., about a month ago to say the building is dangerous and he needs to solve the problems, but Soracchi didn’t respond.

“I never heard back from him, so I figure we’re going to end up owning it,” Collins said. “It’s dangerous. The sprinkler system doesn’t work, and it is shut off. If there was a fire, there’s no protection in the building. The roof is in bad condition. There are a lot of leaks. It’s decrepit. It’s rotten. The inside is just full of debris.”

On Tuesday afternoon, siding on the building’s exterior was hanging off in several places, both on the Main Street side and on the south side where part of Main Street curves around to connect with Front Street.

Soracchi said late Tuesday afternoon that he spoke with Collins on Jan. 23, Collins asked him to have somebody screw the aluminum siding back on, and Soracchi complied.

“I had somebody go out and secure the aluminum siding,” Soracchi said, adding that if the siding is falling off the building now, it is in a new spot and he would have someone check it.

He rejected Collins’ claim the sprinkler system needs to be turned on inside, saying nothing is going to happen inside the unheated, uninhabited building. Other vacant buildings downtown don’t have sprinkler systems, he said.

“The building is empty,” he said. “There’s no need to have a sprinkler system in an empty building.”

He said the debris in the building is construction debris from when the sprinkler system was repaired and other work was done, and it isn’t trash or garbage.

“It’s not going to hurt anyone; it’s not going to start a fire,” he said.

Soracchi also rejected Collins’ claim that the roof is leaking. He said it was leaking when he bought the building, but he had it fixed.

“It hasn’t leaked, to my knowledge, since about a month after I purchased it,” he said.

As for Collins’ comments that the city probably will end up owning the building, Soracchi said the city could buy it from him.

“If the city wants to buy the building, they’re perfectly capable of making an offer on the building,” he said.

Meanwhile, the city has placed a lien on the building for unpaid property taxes in the amount of $4,305.49, as of Aug. 12.

Contacted Tuesday, City Manager Michael Roy said he doesn’t know the building’s condition, as he hasn’t seen it himself and hasn’t spoken with Collins about it.

“If that’s Garth’s assessment, I stand behind him on that evaluation of it,” Roy said.

Soracchi bought the building in February 2013 for $70,000 and claims to have spent $92,000 on the property, renovating some apartments on the upper floors and starting to prepare the first-floor space for retail businesses.

Plans to complete the renovations collapsed because of disagreements between Soracchi and the city about an application for a $25,000 city loan to pay for part of the cost.

In April 2013, Soracchi applied for a loan from the city under the city’s Downtown Forgivable Loan Program. The loan was never made. Funding would have come from the city’s downtown tax increment financing fund. Under the loan program, a borrower makes interest-only payments and the principal is forgiven if pre-established conditions are met.

Roy considers Soracchi’s application closed. He said Soracchi failed to meet deadlines for submitting documentation needed for approving the loan, and as a result, the city walked away from the project. Because Soracchi was consistently late with his submissions, he said, the city didn’t have confidence that he had the ability to complete the project.

Soracchi said Tuesday, as he has said in the past, that he submitted everything the city asked for, including tax returns, income statements and other financial information. The city, he said, sat on the paperwork for nearly a year.

Meanwhile, Collins said that “after dealing with this guy, I don’t blame the city at all. I’ve reached out to him many times.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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