WATERVILLE — A run-down city-owned apartment house at 19 Summer St. will be demolished, since the City Council on Tuesday voted 4-3 not to sell it to Brown House Properties for $19,300.

Councilors debated whether to sell the three-story building to Brown House, a family-owned residential rental business based in Waterville. Money from the sale would have been deposited in the South End Neighborhood Improvement Fund once taxes and fees totaling $7,544 were paid, according to the order councilors considered Tuesday.

Some councilors said selling the property would keep it on the city’s tax rolls, while others maintained the city should demolish dilapidated buildings and create green space to help improve quality of life in keeping with the South End Neighborhood Association’s strategic plan developed in 2007.

The city took over the Summer Street property for nonpayment of taxes in March. The three-story building has been vacant a few years and would require extensive work to make it habitable, according to city officials.

The building originally was proposed for demolition, but people expressed interest in buying it, so the city put it out to bid, according to City Manager Michael Roy.

The city received only one bid, and that was from Brown House, Roy said Wednesday. Sherwood Booker from Brown House told councilors he would fix the building, remove porches from it and bring it up to code, as he did with a building on Grove Street that he bought from the city, according to Roy.

“I was disappointed in the outcome of the vote because he had already done this rehabilitation work with the property on Grove Street,” Roy said. “I think they did a very good job on that.”

City Councilor Jackie Dupont, D-Ward 7, voted against selling the building to Brown House. She said in an email Wednesday that members of the South End Neighborhood Association developed a strategic plan for the neighborhood that outlines a vision including specific goals and objectives. Those objectives include demolishing buildings that are dilapidated; reducing multi-family buildings to encourage owner occupancy; creating green space, parking, snow storage and pathways; and improving quality of life, she said.

“Improvement in quality of life issues are important for the continued health and vitality of the neighborhood and the city at large,” Dupont’s email says. “This strategic plan is the voice of the South End Neighborhood. Not every property is the same and not every property needs to be saved. We learned last night that our bidding process of these properties needs work in order to better serve all members of our community.”

Dupont said she toured the 19 Summer St. property with city and community members and thinks the building should be torn down to create “literal and metaphorical space with which to implement the strategic plan.”

NEIGHBORS WEIGH IN

Neighbors of 19 Summer St. interviewed Thursday said they are delighted the building will be torn down, and they hope a park can be developed in its place for children and families.

“It’s an eyesore the way it is,” said Dave Poulin, who lives with Priscilla Breton in an apartment building next door.

“I really think it’s a piece of crap,” Poulin said. “It’s a run-down property and I like the idea of green space. Anything’s better than that.”

At an apartment building just south of that, Karen Moran was playing cards on the porch with her boyfriend, Nelson Dennis.

Moran said she does not like Brown House Properties and is glad the council decided not to sell to the company.

She said if the property is turned into a park, the city should make sure police come by a lot so it does not turn into a “park for druggies.” She said the drug problem is bad in the area.

Paul Beaulieu, who lives on Gray Street and can see 19 Summer St. from his kitchen, also said he is glad the building will be torn down. He said he has lived in the area all his life — 43 years — and has seen buildings become run-down and several become vacant.

“I’d get rid of all those houses,” he said. “You get people going in and stealing copper and sleeping overnight in there.”

He said he often takes his 3-year-old daughter for a walk and sees syringes everywhere. Two nights earlier, he was cleaning up the street and saw someone pick up a box of recycling and throw it into the middle of the road, he said.

“I cleaned it up so people didn’t get flat tires,” he said. “When I was growing up, it wasn’t like this on the street.”

CITY OFFICIALS CITE COSTS

Meanwhile, Roy said the 4-3 vote not to sell to Brown House requires the city to tear the building down. The cost to do so is estimated at $12,000.

If the council had decided to sell the property, the $19,300 would have been deposited in the South End Neighborhood Fund after the $7,544 in taxes and fees were paid, giving the fund $12,000, according to Roy.

“The South End Neighborhood Fund is going to lose $24,000,” he said. “That’s what I tried to get across last night. And the city’s going to lose $7,000 in taxes.”

Funds from buildings sold in the South End of the city go into the South End Fund, and when buildings need to be demolished in the South End, the money to do that comes out of that fund, according to Roy.

“So the fund is going to be hit with $12,000 and loses the chance to add an additional amount,” he said. “The demolition is an estimate. It could be more than that. I don’t know.”

Mayor Nick Isgro also said the vote represents a loss of money for the city.

“We need to be clear to the taxpayers, the councilors that voted this down are voting to write off $7,500 in back taxes and city expenses as well as turning down additional profit and investment to the city, and asking the taxpayers to subsidize a demolition and maintenance of a ‘green space,'” Isgro said Wednesday in an email. “Targeting a city solicited bid on this project, then ramming through a different property to a different bidder minutes later sets a dangerous precedent. The council has allotted zero dollars to keep programs like Waterville Main Street going and we’re scrounging for funds to pay for our school resource officer and we just turned down positive revenues. I have a feeling there’s going to be some tough questions to answer from taxpayers. Even a long time member from SENA approached me very upset about this vote.”

Isgro was referring to a vote councilors took Tuesday after the Summer Street property decision. They voted to sell 9 Halde St. to Tony and Loni Noonan for $8,211. The city had taken the single-family home for nonpayment of taxes. Money from the sale will be placed in the South End Neighborhood Fund, minus the $2,478 due in taxes and fees. The estimated cost for asbestos removal and demolition is $10,000, according to the order councilors voted on Tuesday.

PROBLEMS WITH ABANDONED PROPERTY

Councilor Lauren Lessing, D-Ward 3, also opposed selling the Summer Street property to Brown House. Lessing issued a statement Wednesday saying Waterville has a significant problem with abandoned properties, which exist in every ward. She said there are two abandoned houses within a block of her own house.

“I believe that the voices of neighborhood residents are incredibly important in determining what becomes of these properties,” Lessing said. “In the case of 19 Summer St., Ward 7 Councilor Jackie Dupont spoke with residents of the surrounding neighborhood and also with the South End Neighborhood Association who, in keeping with their strategic plan, expressed a clear desire to see the derelict house taken down.”

Lessing said Dupont represented the voices of her constituents at Tuesday’s meeting and she (Lessing) would do the same for Ward 3 residents when making decisions about abandoned houses in their neighborhoods.

“I hope my fellow councilors will support me when that moment comes.”

In addition to Dupont and Lessing, Councilor Nathaniel White, D-Ward 2, and Winifred Tate, D-Ward 6, voted against selling 19 Summer St. to Brown House. Council Chairman Steve Soule, D-Ward 1, and councilors Sydney Mayhew, R-Ward 4, and Nick Champagne, R-Ward 5, voted in favor.

In other matters Tuesday, councilors voted 7-0 to table until July 5 voting on the proposed municipal and school budget because officials still do not know how much money will be coming from the state to help fund schools.

The council also voted to waive cloture to consider declaring an emergency so money can be spent to run the city after June 30, when the city’s fiscal year ends. The council voted 7-0 to do so. Councilors also voted 7-0 to authorize emergency funding for city and schools at levels in the current fiscal year budget from July 1 until the budget is approved.

Finally, they voted 7-0 to extend the city’s contract with WasteZero for pay-as-you-throw trash bags.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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