WATERVILLE — The city has settled with the owner of an apartment building at 19 Western Ave. that last year was declared dangerous and a visual blight, long after a fire occurred there in 2012.

The City Council on Tuesday night voted 7-0 to approve the settlement after City Solicitor William A. Lee III reported the proposal would give building owner Leonard D. Poulin Jr. 60 days — until July 15 — to repair a hole in the roof and replace entry doors, as well as damaged windows and exterior carpentry, and clean up debris inside. With that work, the building no longer would be a visual nuisance and a danger, Lee said.

Further, as part of a second phase of work, to be completed within nine months from July 15, all wiring and plumbing must be replaced. If it is not, Poulin will face a civil penalty of $50 a day until the work is complete, according to Lee. Neighbors have complained the building is a visual blight. Because of water leaking into it and extensive burn damage, odor is a problem, he said.

“With this settlement, we keep the property on the tax rolls and don’t have to pay a large sum of money to remove the building ourselves,” Lee told councilors.

On Oct. 2 last year, the council voted 6-0 to declare the apartment house dangerous and a nuisance and gave Poulin 60 days to demolish the building, which was heavily damaged by fire on Oct. 2, 2012. As part of the vote, the council required he remove the debris and fill in any holes left by the demolition. If he did not do so, the city would demolish it, remove the debris and fill in any holes, according to the resolution.

The council at the time determined the cost of that work and any other fees would be paid by the owner within 30 days or a special tax for the amount would be assessed against the land and remaining building, collectible in the same manner as real estate taxes. Poulin would have 30 days in which to appeal the decision to Superior Court.

The vote followed a lengthy session, similar to a court hearing, in which Lee spoke and an attorney from his office, Mariah Gleaton, questioned all parties, including Code Enforcement Officer Dan Bradstreet; Garth Collins, his then-ordinance compliance officer; and Poulin, with Collins and Bradstreet saying they had asked Poulin repeatedly to fix the building.

Councilors looked at photographs of the building showing a hole in the roof, broken windows and a lot of debris inside, and neighbors spoke about the property emitting an odor and being an eyesore. They also said they thought it devalued neighboring properties. Poulin said he had intended to fix the building up, but it would cost about $100,000 and he did not have the money. He offered to fix the hole in the roof and the broken windows. After the council vote, Poulin indicated he planned to appeal.

The City of Waterville has reached a settlement with the owner of this apartment building, photographed here on Wednesday, at 19 Western Ave. in Waterville. Leonard D. Poulin has until July 15 to repair the building that burned in a fire on Oct. 2, 2012. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“You do realize this is going to incur a lot of legal costs for both sides,” he said at the time.

Lee said Wednesday that Poulin appealed the decision to Superior Court, but parties agreed to stop prosecution and give both sides time to see if they could work out a settlement. Extensive negotiations were held with Poulin’s attorney and Bradstreet, the code enforcement officer, about what needs to be done to ensure the structure is not dangerous and a nuisance, according to Lee.

“If he doesn’t comply with phase one by July 15, then he is directed to tear the building down; and if he does not, then we tear it down,” Lee said.

Lee said the cost to tear down the building is estimated at $20,000. If the city has to tear the building down, it will bill Poulin for the cost, Lee told the council Tuesday.

Poulin said in a phone interview Wednesday that he plans to comply with the agreement, though he had spent $6,000 so far on legal fees, and that is not yet the full amount. That money, he said, could have been used to fix up the building.

Poulin said that when he attended the Oct. 2 meeting at which the council gave him 60 days to demolish the building, he was blindsided because the letters he had received from the city prior to that concerning the property did not indicate he would have to tear it down.

The City of Waterville has reached a settlement with the owner of this apartment building, photographed here on Wednesday, at 19 Western Ave. in Waterville. Leonard D. Poulin has until July 15 to repair the building that burned in a fire on Oct. 2, 2012. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

A letter he received April 19, 2018, from the code enforcement office said he had been told two weeks earlier that the building was in violation of the city’s property maintenance ordinance and he needed to address the problems. His failure to fix up the property would result in a summons to court and legal fees of $100 per day, according to the letter. Another letter from Lee, dated Aug. 27, notified him of the council meeting scheduled for Oct. 2, 2018, where the council would consider declaring the building dangerous and a nuisance.

“If the Municipal Officers find that the building/structure is dangerous or a nuisance, they may order appropriate corrective action, including but not limited to demolition and removal of the building/structure,” the letter says.

Poulin said Wednesday that, at the time, he had people inside the building, working to clean it out, and that the lawn was being mowed.

“I can show you slips of the landfill where we had taken debris,” he said. “We had been maintaining it as far as their definition of blight.”

He said the damage to the building is in only one apartment unit and the rest is structurally sound.


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