The property at 195 Mount Vernon Ave. in Augusta, photographed Feb. 25. The front wall and part of the roof were removed before demolition was halted. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file Buy this Photo

AUGUSTA — City councilors voted Thursday to declare a vacant and partially roofless house on South Grove Street a dangerous building and ordered the owner to demolish it within 90 days, over his objections.

Councilors also agreed to give the owner of a partially roofless, commercial garage on Mount Vernon Avenue a chance to make good on his pledge to fix the building, despite a history of not making good on similar pledges with other buildings.

Councilors voted unanimously to order Kevin Thomas to demolish the house at 57 S. Grove St. within 90 days. That declaration would allow the city to demolish it and bill Thomas for the cost, if he does not take action.

Code Enforcement Director Rob Overton said the building has a significant hole in its roof, allowing water — and causing mold and rot — inside, has walls that have failed and has an unstable foundation that is no longer fully supporting the house.

Thomas, whom Overton said did not respond to notices the city has sent over the past three years directing him to repair the building to make it safe, told city councilors Thursday he planned to repair the building. He said he would remove the front and rear sections, put in a new foundation, and save and rebuild the middle part of the small home.

Thomas said he had not planned to hire a structural engineer on the project, because he said that would be spending money unnecessarily for work he can do himself. He said he’s been too busy to work on the building, and he didn’t think the city would really declare his building dangerous or have it demolished.

“I never expected you were going to tear that thing down,” Thomas said. “I didn’t know you had that kind of right, to tear somebody’s property down.”

City officials insisted a structural engineer need approve plans to save the structure, and expressed doubt the building is something that could be saved due to extreme deterioration.

Councilors also said it did not appear Thomas had a plan for what to do with the building or money set aside to do the work, although he said he had a 401(k) retirement fund he could tap for money to put into the building.

Councilors delayed action on another staff recommendation that a former commercial garage at 195 Mount Vernon Ave. also be declared a dangerous building. That delay will allow city staff time to work with the property owner, who plans to rebuild it, to develop an engineer-approved plan for the work.

The building is owned by ABC Fuel Inc., which is owned by Olin Charette. Overton said Charette has a history of not taking action on city orders to repair and bring up to code other ramshackle properties he has owned in the city, despite stating he would take action on them.

Those include a former apartment building at 110 Northern Ave., where Overton said two families renting there had to be removed from it out of safety concerns.

Overton said Charette “walked away from” that and left it to be taken by the city, which demolished part of it and sold it to a man who has since refurbished it.

Overton also noted Charette’s ownership of a long-deficient property at the corner of Quimby and South Belfast avenues and 22 Maple St., which the city declared a dangerous building and had demolished.

“The owner of this property has never followed through on any plan he’s given us,” he said.

Overton said a portion of the building at 195 Mount Vernon Ave. that was an immediate hazard to the public was taken down, but a portion remains standing and Charette has not submitted a plan to the city to repair or demolish the rest of the building.

Jack Baldacci, a lawyer representing Charette at Thursday’s meeting, and Helen Watts, a structural engineer with Criterium Engineers in Freeport working on the project, said he plans to rebuild the garage and use it as a vehicle repair facility for ABC Fuel’s fleet of trucks. They asked he be given time to bring the structure up to code.

Watts said she inspected the building twice and recommended two actions to address urgent concerns: Bracing concrete walls and cleaning up the site, both of which have been done.

She said additional improvements would involve exterior masonry work, which she said will have to wait until warmer weather. Watts said Charette already has many of the building materials needed to complete work on the site.

“I’ve developed a plan for what he needs to do going forward,” Watts said. “I expect (the work) to be done this summer or fall.”

Overton expressed concern about the roof trusses — some of which have been installed at the structure — because he said they have been stored uncovered outside for a long time and appear to have bows in them, which might make them inadequate.

Watts said she would inspect the trusses. If found to be inadequate, they would be removed and replaced.

After about two hours of debate on the two properties, councilors voted 6-1 to table the fate of 195 Mount Vernon Ave. for two weeks to give city officials time to work with the owner to establish a plan. That plan would include benchmarks to give the owner a chance to fix up the property, but allowing the city to still step in and order it demolished if those are not met.

Councilors discussed those two properties, and a third at 7 South Grove St., and a recommendation from the city’s code enforcement department to declare them to be dangerous buildings, last week.

City Manager William Bridgeo said the 7 S. Grove St. property will come to the council, possibly to be declared a dangerous building, at a future meeting, once all the proper legal notifications have happened.

If the buildings are declared to be dangerous, Bridgeo the city could have them removed and seek reimbursement for demolition costs from the property owners. This could include placing liens on the properties.

State statute allows municipalities to have buildings deemed to be dangerous torn down. To deem a building dangerous, officials must “find that the building is structurally unsafe, unstable or unsanitary; constitutes a fire hazard; is unsuitable or improper for the use or occupancy to which it is put; constitutes a hazard to health or safety because of inadequate maintenance, dilapidation, obsolescence or abandonment; or is otherwise dangerous to life or property.”

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