WATERVILLE — City councilors on Wednesday will consider taking a first vote to approve an ordinance regulating owners of vacant buildings that would require them to pay a registration fee of $250 and provide the city with a contact person for buildings.

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at The Center downtown. Councilors usually meet the first and third Tuesday of the month, but this week they will meet Wednesday because elections are Tuesday.

Councilors are required to take two votes to approve an ordinance, but may take only one vote Wednesday.

City Manager Michael Roy said there is no way for city officials to know how many vacant buildings are in the city, but he estimated there are a few dozen.

At times the city has had difficulty with vacant buildings because the buildings change hands frequently, as in the case of an apartment building on Gold Street that the city eventually razed. The building was dilapidated and posed a danger to the neighborhood because animals and young people were getting inside, tiles were blowing off the roof in the wind and the porches were in danger of falling off among other issues.

City officials were constantly trying to locate someone representing the owner, but with no success.

During the last state legislative session, a law was passed that requires owners of buildings that are in foreclosure to register with the city and give the city the names of contact persons for the buildings.

“That doesn’t cover vacant buildings not in foreclosure,” Roy said.

He cited a building on the corner of Averill Terrace and First Rangeway that has been vacant four or five years but does not pose issues for the city.

“We don’t have any problem with that one because someone is mowing that lawn and it is not in foreclosure,” Roy said.

However, if the ordinance is approved, the owner of that building would have to pay a $250 registration fee and inform the city of a contact person for the building.

If the ordinance is approved, anyone violating it would receive a civil penalty and have to pay legal fees and costs.

“It’s a civil violation, not criminal, which is a big, big difference because police can’t enforce it,” Roy said. “We’d have to serve them civilly to collect damages, fines.”

Police Chief Joseph Massey said Monday that such an ordinance would be helpful to police, who have been called to vacant buildings that attract young people who hang out there, do damage, and conceal activities such as smoking cigarettes or marijuana or drinking while underage.

Massey said police encourage landlords and property owners to secure vacant buildings, notify the police department as soon as they become vacant and make sure nothing valuable is left inside. Several years ago, Massey got the idea for and developed a criminal trespass affidavit program for property owners that would have the owners sign and notarize papers authorizing police to arrest people who trespass on properties after first giving them a warning.

“Some property owners take advantage of it and some don’t,” Massey said of the program.

When people go into vacant buildings at 2 a.m., for instance, it is difficult to get in touch with property owners to get authorization, so an ordinance requiring building owners to name someone who is a building contact would be helpful, according to Massey.

“I think it’s very helpful that we have contact information — and current and valid contact information — so we can resolve issues that are happening,” he said.

He added that police in the past have responded to a part of the former Harris Baking Co. building that is vacant because people got inside. In the past, young people also got inside the former Boys Club on Main Place and threw Molotov cocktails in the empty swimming pool there.

Massey said buildings that are blighted and have broken windows, overgrown bushes and trash tend to continue to deteriorate.

In other business Wednesday, councilors will consider accepting a low bid of $146,680 from Custom Truck & Body Works, Inc., of Woodbury, Georgia, and approve up to $150,000 for construction of a new rescue vehicle for the Fire Department.

The money for the truck would come from a 2013 bond.

A memo from fire Chief David LaFountain dated Oct. 23 says the new vehicle represents a different and more efficient approach to emergency medical services delivery for the department.

The department has specified a smaller vehicle than its current heavy rescue vehicle that cost $238,000 in 2003, has 116,776 miles and 14,229 hours on it and costs an average of $35,000 a year for maintenance over the last five years, the memo says.

Roy agreed the city is in need of a new rescue truck.

“This is a needed replacement,” he said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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