Vassalboro Board of Selectmen
Minutes of the Meeting
January 6, 2022

Members Present: Barbara Redmond and Chris French

Members Absent: Robert Browne

Others Present: Mary Sabins, Mary Grow, Mike Poulin, CEO Ryan Page, Former CEO Paul Mitnik, Chad Caron and his mother; Attorney Allaina Murphy, Darrell Gagnon, Melissa Olson, Fire Chief Walker Thompson, Mike Vashon, Don Breton, Tom Richards, Police Chief Mark Brown, Ray Breton, Becky & John Goodrich, Martha Verhille, First Responder Chief Dan Mayotte, Cathy Coyne, Stacy Richmond, Kayla Krause, and several other members of the public.

1. Call to order – The meeting was called to order at 6:30 pm by Select Board Member Barbara Redmond, filling in for Chairperson Rob Browne who was absent due to illness.

2. Minutes – On a motion made by C. French, seconded by B. Redmond, the Board voted unanimously to accept the minutes of the 12/9/21 meeting as written.

3. Dangerous Building Hearing – Acting Chairperson Redmond opened the hearing at 6:31 pm and requested facts on the old church building that is in question of being a dangerous building, located at 14 Priest Hill Road, from Code Officer Ryan Page. CEO Page distributed packets of 11 photographs of the property to each Board Member, the Town Manager, to Town Line Reporter Mary Grow, and to Mr. Chad Caron, owner of said property. The photographs had been taken, and the Findings of Facts concerning the conditions of the property depicted in the photographs had been prepared by Former Code Officer Paul Mitnik who retired from office on December 30, 2021. CEO Page proceeded to describe the structural deficiencies in the building foundation and the junk in the yard as depicted in each photograph. When Board Members asked questions about what supports the building, former CEO Paul Mitnik described the need for a proper foundation to support the weight of the structure, made of concrete spread footings and a foundation wall with metal rebar in the concrete for reinforcement of the concrete. The bottom area of the footing receives the live loads such as wind and snow and dead loads such as the weight of the building and spreads the load over the footing bottom area to the soil. There is no foundation under the building. Currently, the building is temporarily supported on a few posts and the framing and sheathing of the structure. There is minimal surface area on the bottom of the posts to support such a heavy load. The church structure was reportedly moved to the present location in 1865 and has sustained a fire in the past. Paul further stated that, in the past, he had put property owner Chad Caron on a schedule to do certain things to improve the property, but Mr. Caron didn’t keep up with the schedule and it looked worse than before. Paul revoked the building permit and issued a Stop Work Order in January 2021. If the building collapses, Paul believes there is a chance the steeple on this tall dilapidated church building would hit abutting property. In addition, Paul stated that the tarps covering the piles of junk on the property is an environment for rodents to live and thrive. Fire Chief Walker Thompson stated that he has been to the property many times for controlled fires too close to the building or other combustible material. He considers the site a dangerous building. If the building catches fire, Chief Thompson stated that his department will not do an interior attack because of the holes in the walls and foundation. It is not safe to do so. Chief Thompson stated he does not know what is holding the building together and that is it is not a good situation. Police Chief Mark Brown stated he has received complaints about vehicles in the roadway at the 14 Priest Hill Road location that is preventing proper snow plowing operations. Chief Brown does not want to see plow equipment damaged and he required Mr. Caron to move the vehicles backward onto the property and out of the roadway tonight because a snow storm is expected this evening. Acting Chairperson Barbara Redmond then gave Mr. Caron an opportunity to address the comments that have been presented at the Hearing tonight. Mr. Caron began by stating that he appreciated the Town having the Hearing this evening. He said that he could make no excuses for the appearance of his property. He said he buys, sells and trades building material to make a living. Most of the material on the site is from Duratherm. He said he could improve the street appearance if he was given an abatement in the time deadline. He explained that he took the front columns down so they could be refinished and that they will be returned to the structure. He described how he has stabilized the steeple, and said that nothing has been stripped out of the inside of the building. He described how water no longer pools under the building because he dug trenches to drain the water to go out behind the building from the front yard. He added supports under the building; the building is safer now that when he bought it. Chad explained that the church is a big post and beam structure and that he could provide training to anyone interested in knowing more about that type of construction. He explained that there is a massive footing along the front of the church that holds up the front wall and that it won’t fall down. He intends to add more structural supports over time. Since the Stop Work Order was issued, Chad said he has been contemplating what to do with the building. Upon inquiry from a meeting attendee, Chad said he left the windows uncovered so that the wind can blow through the structure. He further stated that the junk being discussed is not junk, but materials to complete the work. Also, he said that the Church is holding up the telephone pole nearby and that it is attached by a cable. Mr. Caron stated that he wants to see the building preserved and saved and for the site to be cleaned up. He said after the first warning issued by CEO Mitnik, he filled a dumpster in an attempt to clean the site up. He reiterated that he wants to save the building and he would give the building to someone if they promised to save it. Chad admitted again that the property needs to be cleaned up. He stated that he needs help and wants volunteers to assist him. He stated that he has bit off more than he can chew. A female attendee, who introduced herself as Sam, stated that she had been helping Chad by contacting CMP and also to locate a mason to help fix problems. Board Member Barbara Redmond asked Chad if he is a licensed engineer, to which Chad said no and listed his prior work experiences as a carpenter and drywall installer, among other things. Former CEO Paul Mitnik stated that he is a Licensed Engineer and that he believed Mr. Caron’s intentions were good, but that he is in way over his head on this project. Mr. Caron stated that he has many resources and could fundraise for this project. He wants and needs more public support to save the structure. Former CEO Mitnik recommended that Mr. Caron give the building to someone with resources to restore the building. Selectman Chris French stated to Mr. Caron that the town has asked him to clean up his property before without any action. How would this time be any different? Mr. Caron stated that he plans to move the junk to a one-acre parcel he owns on the South Reynolds Road. Fire Chief Thompson asked about a timeline for the project to which Mr. Caron stated he wanted the project completed in 8 months after initial purchase, but it took 1½ years for the earth work. He would need another 5 years to make it presentable. Selectman French asked CEO Paul Mitnik about communication with Chad in the past to which Paul stated it was not good. Chad would make promises without delivery, made changes in his phone number, and changes in his address. Mr. Caron said he was embarrassed and could have done better. He said he over-promised and under-delivered. Abutting neighbor Martha Verhille stated that she lives in the house next door that used to be the parsonage to this church. She doesn’t want to see the church demolished, but she also doesn’t like the crap sitting next door in the church yard as it de-values all the property in the neighborhood. She said Mr. Caron’s property is not the only property on the street that looks like crap. It needs to be cleaned up and made presentable. She stated that she has allowed Mr. Caron on occasion, but not regularly, to plug into her electricity so he can get a project done. Chad apologized again and reiterated that he needs help. Resident Mike Vashon stated that he had heard enough and wanted the Chairperson to poll the people here on whether the building should be declared a dangerous building or not. Acting Chairperson Redmond stated that there would be no poll among attendants. Darrell Gagnon asked if the town would be held liable if the fire department does not perform an interior attack if the building is ablaze. Most felt the answer would be no. B. Redmond asked Mr. Caron if the building is insured. Mr. Caron said no, but that he personally was insured but that insurance would not cover if the building collapsed and damaged an abutter’s property. Acting Chairperson Redmond closed the public hearing at 7:30 pm. Selectman Chris French stated that he is not an expert on buildings and that he needed to rely on the CEO professionals who say this is a dangerous building. We are back here again and this is not a new problem. Mr. Caron stated that he can provide a Structural Safety Report. Chad’s mother offered that she would pay the estimated $1,500 to obtain the report. Chad stated that he will call Coffin Engineering and that it will probably take a month and a half to get the report. B. Redmond asked CEO Ryan Page if he would be comfortable waiting for the report, to which he answered affirmatively. Chris French read the five criteria from the Order by which the Board was to determine if the church building is indeed found to be a dangerous building. Chris stated that he was in favor of declaring the building a dangerous building. Acting Chairperson Redmond stated that she accepts the findings of the CEO and made a motion to declare the building located at 14 Priest Hill Road a dangerous building. The motion was seconded by Chris French and voted unanimously by the Board. Mr. Caron requested a step process where he could meet certain goals outlined for him. Town Attorney Allaina Murphy offered that the draft Dangerous Building Order laid before the Selectmen for adoption tonight could be amended in Section 3 to add the words “or improvement” to give Mr. Caron another opportunity. The amended last sentence in section three of the Order would read as follows: “The Code Enforcement Officer may, in his discretion, grant an extension of up to 60 days if reasonable progress is being made toward removal or improvement of the building.” The Select Board agreed to this amendment, which was added to the written draft Order by Attorney Murphy. The Board signed the order as amended. The amended order as adopted is printed below in italics.

Dangerous Building – 14 Priest Hill Road

WHEREAS, it has come to the attention of the Town of Vassalboro that the building located at 14 Priest Hill Road, Vassalboro appears to be extremely structurally unstable, and

WHEREAS, the Town’s Code Enforcement Officer has found, upon inspection of the building, that:

1. The building is structurally flawed and not safe for a residential neighborhood. There is no foundation under the building. The building is being temporarily supported by posts and the framing and sheathing of the structure. The minimal surface area on the bottom of the posts is not sufficient to safely support the heavy load and height of the building.
2. The front wall of the building is being used to support the front of the steeple and is lacking a foundation. The front wall is being supported by loose bricks and loose stones in each corner in which much of the mortar has crumbled.
3. The west side of the building receives runoff water directly from the road which empties into the basement of the building. This further compromises the structural integrity of the building as it is often sitting on wet soil with minimal weight bearing strength.
4. The framing of the building is structurally compromised due to fire damage dating back to 1899.
5. The building, due to its height and instability, poses a high risk of hitting electrical lines or abutting structures should a total or partial collapse occur.
6. There exists demolition debris and assorted junk scattered throughout the property.

WHEREAS, the Board of Selectmen on January 6, 2022 held a hearing pursuant to 17 M.R.S.A. § 2851;

WHEREAS, Owner Chad Caron was duly notified of said hearing pursuant to 17 M.R.S.A. § 2851; and

WHEREAS, the Town’s Code Enforcement Officer testified at the hearing as to his findings regarding the building, as stated above;

NOW THEREFORE, the Board of Selectmen hereby ORDERS, that:

1. The Board of Selectmen accepts the findings of the Code Enforcement Officer as stated above as true and hereby accepts said findings as its own.

2. The building located at 14 Priest Hill Road, Tax Map 23, Lot 35-1 is hereby declared a “dangerous building” that is:

a. structurally unsafe and unstable
b. unsanitary
c. unsuitable for occupancy
d. constitutes a fire hazard, and
e. constitutes a health or safety hazard because of inadequate maintenance, dilapidation, obsolescence or abandonment

Therefore, the above-mentioned property is adjudged to be a dangerous nuisance.

3. For the above reasons, the Board of Selectmen ORDERS that the building located at 14 Priest Hill Road shall be removed in a safe and sanitary way, in consultation with the Town’s Code Enforcement Officer and in compliance with all relevant Town and State laws, WITHIN 30 DAYS OF THE DATE OF THIS ORDER. The Code Enforcement Officer may, in his discretion, grant an extension of up to 60 days if reasonable progress is being made toward removal or improvement of the building.

4. If said building is not removed by the stated date or any granted extension, the Town or its properly engaged agents or contractors shall enter the property and remove the building. All expenses relating to the removal of the building and abatement of the nuisance shall be repaid to the Town by the owner within 30 days after the Town’s demand, or a special tax shall be assessed against the land on which the building was located for the amount of the expenses, and that amount shall be included on the next annual warrant to the Tax Collector for collection and collected in the same manner as other Town taxes are collected. Expenses to be recovered shall include, but are not limited to, the cost of title searches, location reports, service of process, reasonable attorney's fees, costs of removal of the building, any costs incurred in securing the building pending its removal and all other costs incurred by the Town that are reasonably related to the removal of the building. The Town shall also reserve the right to collect any expenses through a civil action.

5. An appeal of this Order may be made to the Kennebec County Superior Court, pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 80B, within 30 days of the date of the Order.

 

4. Other agenda items postponed - A motion was made by B. Redmond, seconded by C. French, and voted unanimously by the Board to postpone action on agenda items #4, #5, #6, and #8 until the January 20th meeting when Chairperson Browne is expected to be able to attend.

5. Trail Committee’s letter of request – With little discussion and on a motion made by B. Redmond, seconded by C. French, the Board voted unanimously to sign the letter to Commissioner Judy Camuso on behalf of the Vassalboro Trail Committee requesting permission for the Trail Committee to take over trail maintenance of the trail leading to Spectacle Pond in Vassalboro.

6. CMP Pole Permit – On a motion made by B. Redmond, seconded by C. French, the Board voted unanimously to sign CMP pole permit and work order #801000413323.

7. Reports – On a motion made by C. French, seconded by B. Redmond, the Board voted unanimously to accept the Road and Police Reports as presented.

8. Treasurer’s Warrants – On a motion made by B. Redmond, seconded by C. French, the Board voted unanimously to approve warrants #37. #38, and #39.

9. Other – 1. On a motion made by C. French, seconded by B. Redmond, the Board voted unanimously to reinvest the maturing share certificate at the Maine Savings Federal Credit Union for a term of 12 months at a rate of .25% interest.

10. Adjourn – There being no further business to discuss, the meeting was adjourned at 8:00 p.m.

/mss

These minutes were read and accepted by the Board of Selectmen on 1/20/22 with the following amendments: B. Redmond stated that in the sixth line from the bottom on page two, the minutes should not say that Mr. Caron owns a one-acre parcel on the South Reynolds Road. Instead, she believes Mr. Caron said the parcel of land is owned by a friend. The sentence was amended as follows:

Mr. Caron stated that he plans to move the junk to a one-acre parcel he owns owned by a friend on the South Reynolds Road.

A motion was then made by C. French, seconded by B. Redmond, and voted two in favor with one abstention (R. Browne who was absent from the 1/6/22 meeting) to accept the minutes of the 1/6/22 meeting as amended.