Springfield makes progress against run-down buildings
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | August 14,2013
SPRINGFIELD — The town is making progress in its war against dilapidated buildings.
One building is already in the process of demolition and three others are scheduled, Town Attorney Stephen Ankuda told the Select Board on Monday night. Only one property owner is fighting the official town action.
Earlier this summer the town sent letters to the owners of about a dozen properties in Springfield, saying their buildings presented health and safety hazards and demanding immediate repairs or demolition.
Ankuda said tracking down some of the owners proved to be a challenge — one had died — but that eventually all had been formally notified by certified mail. Some had to be served by the town constable, he said.
The town is acting under the auspices of a longtime town ordinance concerning unsafe buildings.
Ankuda said that of the dozen or so properties on the town’s priority list, only one landowner had filed an appeal of the notice.
The Select Board voted Monday to hold that appeal hearing Aug. 26. The appeal was filed by Don and Jean Bishop, who own the building at 23 Valley St.
The building, which is located in back of the People’s United (formerly Chittenden) Bank, has endured two fires in the past, but the Bishops have boarded up the building and use it for storage, said Town Manager Robert Forguites.
Ankuda said he is working with the other landowners, and many have promised action, but asked for additional time until Oct. 1 or Nov. 1. The Select Board supported the requested extra time for action.
Ankuda said the Augustinovich property on Elm Street was demolished within days of receiving the notice.
“His building was down within a day or so,” Ankuda said.
A dilapidated garage at 105 Clinton St. is owned by a pair of “very, very elderly sisters,” Ankuda said, and they will have the building torn down by Nov. 1.
Likewise, a building at 81 Union St. is being transferred to another member of the same family, and that family member has contracted with Gurney Brothers Construction to tear the building down, Ankuda said.
Another building at 42-44 Union St. is vacant and had all the copper plumbing stolen, Ankuda said; the owner is waiting for an insurance settlement before deciding whether to demolish the building or rebuild it.
Selectman David Yesman scoffed at the claim of an insurance delay, saying the copper had been stolen months ago.
“A squatter was kicked out. It’s an eyesore. Insurance claim? That’s just lip service,” said Yesman, who lives in the neighborhood.
And another dilapidated garage, this one at 52 Valley St., will also be demolished with a deadline set for Oct. 1, he said.
Even the town of Springfield is on the list, since it owns one of the properties — by way of a tax sale — located at 21 Cottage Ave.
“The landowner has not been cooperative,” Ankuda said.
Forguites was put on the hot seat for a few minutes: He promised the grass surrounding the house would be cut and said he was meeting with a contractor to make the building safe. He asked for an extension, as well, until Nov. 1.
One building needs to be evaluated by an engineer hired by the town, Ankuda said.
The homeowner of the home at 52 Mount Vernon St. had recently been working on the building and recently installed some Tyvek, Ankuda said, “but the back side still needs to be shored up.”
Forguites said that landowner had recently received a town permit for a partial demolition of the house.
Fire Chief Russell Thompson won’t let any firefighter into the building, Ankuda said.