Lewiston police inspect abandoned tenements

LEWISTON — A broken-down door, shattered windows and walls ripped open to show where the copper plumbing once was: hundreds of buildings in the downtown look just like that, Code Enforcement/police officer Jeffrey Baril said Tuesday.

Vacant buildings in Lewiston
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Officer Charles Weaver of the Lewiston Police Department closes a window in the vacant property at 178-180 Holland St. in Lewiston on Tuesday morning during an inspection with Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Baril.

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This week, the city is mostly concerned with 86 of those buildings.

Four of the city's community resource officers, stationed at the department's Bates Street Substation, have been given the job of inspecting the properties on the city's list of vacant, abandoned and condemned buildings.

Their job is to document the conditions — whether it is locked up tight or has broken windows and doors, how much trash has been left on the floor and what shape the interior is in.

They pass that along to City Hall, which is hiring contractors to visit each building, clear out the trash and seal it up with boards on all of the doors and windows.

"It's going to be expensive," Sgt. Robert Ullrich said, "but it's what we need to do. It's what has to happen right now."

The effort is part of the city's response to the series of downtown fires and an effort to make sure the empty tenements are vacant and as fire-proof as can be.

By Tuesday morning, the team of four officers had visited 28 properties on the city's abandoned buildings list.

Officer Charles Weaver said a building on Lincoln Street stood out: the doors and windows were blocked, the building was empty and the walls had been opened to the timbers. There were no copper pipes to steal, no trash left to pick through and no mattresses left behind to make squatters comfortable.

That was the only one.

Most have been like the buildings at 178-180 Holland St., a three-apartment building with a single-family-sized home in the back. It was occupied until last spring when the last tenant died. It has since been set upon by trespassers.

All of the doors have been kicked open, one completely torn off its frame. Many of the recently installed vinyl windows have been broken and the walls are gaping, thanks to copper thieves. The neat wood floors are covered 6 inches deep with trash, including fast-food bags and cups, cartons from beer and soda six-packs and soiled clothes and bedsheets.

"This was a good building at one time," Baril said. "You could see that someone cared for it at some point."

Neighbors Awadia Abushag and Leah Hersom say they watch the building warily, especially in the wake of the recent fires.

"I feel like we are farther away from everything that's happening, but it's close enough to feel uncomfortable," Hersom said.

Baril said every building has a story. At 92 Walnut St., the owner died last spring, leaving an empty building and a green Subaru wagon parked alongside it. He left no will or papers giving his children property rights.

It too became a magnet for criminal activity, and both building and car have been picked apart.

"This broken window is wide open, and there's a mattress and a chair sitting right next to it," he said. "It doesn't mean people are staying here and living here. This could be an area where they come for any number of illegal activities — prostitution, drugs. Any way you slice it, it's all criminal trespass."

Ullrich said police patrols will be paying special attention to those buildings, especially once they are closed up for good. They ask neighbors to call if they see anyone strange. Trespassers will be arrested.

Once they've finished working through the 86 addresses on the city's abandoned-building list, they will look at the rest of the downtown, Ullrich said.

"Maybe there are some we don't know about or are not on the list or have problems with trash built up around them," Ullrich said. "We can start identifying the next steps. If there is a landlord attached, the Code Enforcement Office can address it with them."


Condemned building
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

This red and white symbol designating a condemned building on 91 Pine Street is just one of many such buildings throughout Lewiston.

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Crazy concept, but...

. . . . .why not start sanctioning landlords who are past due on their property taxes and levy fines and tariffs for buildings that are demolished at cost to the city?

Why are the scummy landlords who let buildings fall down around tenants's ears --while tenants pay their rent in good faith, no less -- given constant free passes on overdue property taxes? Why aren't they charged the full amount of cost when their buildings have to be demolished? Renters pay for this as part of their rent.

Why are these costs put on the shoulders of tax payers? Tenants pay for these things as a part of their rent. Then again, tenants pay for building upkeep; not just management. . . . . . . . .

And why is the city of Lewiston (and Mayor McDonald and Code Enforcement specifically) blaming tenants and the poor for the condition of Lewiston? Ghettofication isn't the result of the poor. It's the result of Maine ranking in the top five of the worst states to do business in according to Forbes. Ghettofication is the direct result of jobs being outsourced to third world countries. Ghettofication is the direct result of the few remaining jobs being segregated toward either specialized jobs that require degrees (such as the 'health care' system here in Lew) --OR-- the wage slave jobs that don't allow people to pay rent and bills at the same time monthly.

Worst of all, ghettofication is the natural result of people abusing the system. Not the people who have to apply. Those folks are actually in the minority. The people who abuse the system are politicians and corporations.

And in Lew, the people who directly contribute to ghettofication are those landlords who refuse to do what they are responsible for; giving paying tenants clean and safe housing. I know it's cheaper for them to let the buildings fall down but really, it's time for this to stop. And we now have a situation where Code Enforcement has said in Council meetings that they will not even respond to calls about code violations if they know a building will fail inspection---so now this situation has escalated to the degree we delegate guardianship to police? Why are we, the voters, allowing this attitude of "let it fall or burn down, keep the lots vacant and trash-strewn, and block building projects like St. Larents"?

Obviously the standard responses by the City aren't working...

Did I mention tenants pay for this 'privilege'? And now homeowners are also responsible for cleaning up this mess....

Gail Labelle's picture

Lewiston police inspect abandoned tenements

The story tells me that the Code Enforcement Division may be understaff due to budget cuts since the city's police force are now involved? If the Code Enforcement Division has been working on cleaning up, inspecting and demolishing properties for almost two years, then why were individuals still living in condem buildings? Was Section 8 or any HUD monies collected during this time? Were the properties no longer owned by the owners, banks and now owned by the city? Why such overcowding of families in units that were not built for a large family? Over 1000 people on the waiting list for housing at Lewiston Housing?? I am glad the city of Lewiston is stepping up and finally doing something to get rid of the hideous buildings with the large Red X 's on them! I want to see more action from the owners of these properties step up, take responsiblity for your units. If you can not afford to fix them , take them down and build retail instead.....Code Enforcement the rules have been there for years, as a former owner I know about the inspections, have these gone to the wayside in the since 2000? I own a beautiful building, kept it up and lived in it. I look at it now I am disgusted and very upset in the condition it now is in.....It takes more than that small talk to start change, my question is when are the citizens of Lewiston going to begin the action to start the change the landscape of thier downtown area?



This is more a result of Code Enforcement giving certain slumlords a free pass. The city also condones this type of welfare....

Please don't ask me why, it doesn't make sense to me either, but if you watch the Council session streaming videos, you'll hear Code Enforcement officials admit that they won't even check certain buildings because Code Enforcement knows the building will fail.

These buildings still have rent-paying occupants. . . . . . .

It's not bad enough that renters pay for the upkeep of their buildings with their rent. It's not bad enough they pay for the property tax fees as part of their rent. Worse than that, now homeowners have to pick up the financial burden.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Lewiston police inspect abandoned tenements

Mayor Mac Donald and Gov. LePage 20:30 hst ? Tuesday
Is it cheaper to raze these buildings now or have arsonists set them on fire later and then respond to the tragic events and the inevitable loss of llife , livelyhood and shelter ?
Your voting public would perhaps want to know the answers to these important questions immediately
You have a sworn responsibility to them to provide timely solutions before an other liƒe is compromised unnecessarily
? Steve


Beautiful and Informed

Thank you. I am so tired of hearing 'welfare abuse' regarding tenants.

Landlords are the ones abusing the welfare benefits given by tax payers and tenants who pay rent in good faith.

David Marsters's picture

Abandoned tenements

It may be wise to have the fire dept burn down these buildings in a controlled burn before someone is killed by these fires. It would be cheaper than having to hire demolition contractors come in. All they would have to do is pick up the ashes.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

I'm curious about something......

I realize the laws are in place to maintain a certain balance. However when an individual dies, and a piece of property is left to rot, instead of at least trying to allow relatives to maintain or other wise, properly dispose of the property, to me sounds a little foolish. There is no written will, the relatives may be distant, the diseased may have owed money, there are a million possibilities. to just allow the place to disintegrate for the lack of a will is stupid, to allow it to become a haven for criminal behavior is insane. If the family could not or would not accept responsibility of the place, allow a nonprofit, or other entity take over while it's still a usable piece of property.
What ever the legal need of a will is, shouldn't allow a building to become a danger to surrounding properties. Maybe it's time to rethink the legal process of handling vacant properties while they are still useable, before they become targets for every criminal out there. Also a long abandoned building pays no taxes, weather the owner is dead or alive.

Bob White's picture

What's your idea??? Keep

What's your idea??? Keep giving people more and more help till they are totally unable to take care of them self's and become totally dependent? Sure their are people that need help ( elderly kids and people down on their luck) but come on you need to help your self. Maybe it is as simple as don't feed the animals I'm not saying the people that need help are animals I'm using that as a meta for. Do you think if we cut back on say the 20 something's that have their hats cocked to the side and their pants around their waste that hang out at their girl friends house who is on section 8 smoking cigs would be in the streets starving? Of course not they would maybe think wow I need to take care of myself. What did the people do before their was all this aid? Do you take care of your family? Do provide the needed things for your family? What would you do if something changed in your life? I bet you would dig deep and work hard. Do you think the ability for you to take care of your family is buy luck of course not its cause of you and your determination guess. A wise man once said" give a man a fish he eats for a day teach him how to fish he will not be hungry


Okay, first....

Bob, you need proper grammar. Talk about a never ending run sentence--and it's broken up with periods and question marks... Geebus dude. Secondly, 'waste' is trash while 'waist' is the middle section of a person--where pants are supposed to go.

Third, your reply is so wrong and silly that calling it an 'archaic ideology' is being nice. . . . . . You are so outdated in your thinking that it's stunning. You're blaming the poor? Is that really what you're doing? Blaming the people?

Let's try this one, just as a line of thought by comparison:

Suppose you have landlords, and these landlords collect rent every single month from their tenants. These tenants are working at jobs that don't pay a living wage and don't come close to full time so employers can dodge paying benefits. These folks can't get a decent job here because politicians like LePage have made sure that Maine works in the top five states on Forbes' Worst States To Do Business In list year after year. On top of that, the majority of manufacturing and low skill/entry level jobs have been shipped overseas. That means 76% of this country live paycheck to paycheck, according to the financial analyst group Bizrate. That also means that most Americans qualify for social service programs like Food Stamps (SNAP).

You with me so far Bob?

Now, these folks who are trapped in poverty, thanks to bad political agendas funded by mega-corporations have few options. They move where it is cheapest to live in order to survive. I would call that "learning how to fish without a teacher". . . .

Enter Lewiston specifically and it's myriad of problems. So you have no jobs, other than Dunkin Donuts and Wally World--unless a person is willing to drown in student loan debt, only to find there are no jobs here in their field of study, which is another can of worms. Then you have the landlords who will take advantage of people. They collect rent month after month and do not make improvements to their buildings. They don't pay for heat during the winter when they're supposed to, and the since most of the buildings are pushing a full 100 years old mark, they collect rent and watch the building deteriorate.

Despite tenants paying for rent month after month, landlords aren't paying property taxes. They're not paying for proper maintenance, and they're happy to blame tenants when they wouldn't live in their own buildings. They have the ear of McDonald and some of the Council members and want to keep you blaming the poor while they drive new cars and have nice homes and can provide for their families.

There's actually one landlord here who has been sanctioned by the city. According to popular Lewiston legend, he's not even allowed to own rental property because his tenements are recognized as slums, and so his properties are in the name of his girlfriend. . . . . . . And yet he's still a landlord. And he's not alone in abusing renters.

Then the City Council finds itself in a bind because these buildings are unsafe and Code Enforcement eventually gets around to inspecting and condemning them. The landlords aren't billed the cost of demolition. The City of Lewiston reports that it's "lucky" to get a 30% return on demolition costs from landlords. The burden falls on tax payers---despite renters paying in good faith. (And no one mentions or even questions what's happening to the renters who are suddenly forced to move....)

Yet renters pay and pay and pay and pay some more.

So now I ask you, who's really responsible? The tenants with their hats and pants and waistlines, or landlords and the city of Lewiston?

Who's really getting welfare breaks Bob?

Steve  Dosh's picture

Bob ? That's an old and tired

Bob ? That's an old and tired truism . You seem to offer no solutions , either . So be it .  No one chooses to be poor , Nobody wants to be on welfare , SNAP , TANF , or in the slums of Canal St Loystone [ sic .] ME 04240 us of a . Walk a mile in their shoes . Volunteer
" Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime. "
What would happen if:
A philosopher walked by? He'd quote the above and walk away, the man would starve.
A Republican walked by? He' tell the man to learn to fish, but not give him a fishing pole.
A Democrat walked by? He'd take a fish from someone else and give it to the man and say "Vote for me, aren't I wonderful."
A bureaucrat walked by? He’d set up a program to give the man a fish every day. He’d run the program and take 5 fish per day for himself
If iwere in L/A i'd give him and his family a fire and he'd cook that fish and they'd eat it
The Atlantic salmon are back in the Androscoggin all the way to Great Falls
hth /s, Steve , former Georges Bank fisherman -- bluefin , lobster , sea urchins , mackerel , tub lines , you name it ... Fish or cut bait



Other than being a fisherman, because I'm deathly allergic to seafood of all types, I love your comment and am sending you virtual hugs.

It's nice to know I'm not the only one who sees the bigger picture here. It's also nice to see that someone else is truly nonpartisan in their voting and thinking habits and looks at all sides of an issue before forming an opinion.

Thank you!

Bob White's picture

Steve if your right nobody

Steve if your right nobody chooses to be poor then nobody chooses to be rich or able to take care of themselves either. So what your saying is that the reason you have had success has nothing to do with your determination to succeeded. I cant speak for you but for any success I have had and I will have I will take full credit for however it goes the same way for any failures I have had and will have. That's the difference from me and probably you as well we take responsibility for our actions and we work on making it happen. These people need to be pushed they need to be able to sink or swim. We have a problem in todays world and I know you know this that you are consider a bad person if you even think of making these people work for it. Look at Rommney when he said 51% of the people are on some sort of welfare. They hammered him "oh he wants the old people and the kids to starve". I don't know him but I'm guessing he was talking about the 20 something's that are just hanging out smoking and doing drugs and making kids this needs to stop. There are plenty of ways we can stop this I don't have the time nor am I a good enough typer to type it all out. One more thing as for Volunteering I will say this to you. I spent 20 years on a Volunteer fire & rescue department back when it was really a volunteer fire department we didn't get paid a penny. I spent many nights weekends and holidays helping people in their worst moments in life not for pay or even thanks I did it because I wanted to.


My god Bob....

...you're quoting Mitt Romney?????????????? Really??? Please tell me you did NOT just quote Romney.

Okay, as a woman who refuses to be in Romney's "binder", let me just illuminate some things for you.

1) Fact Checking is where you hear something and research the validity or truth of it.

It's not hard, go to Google, type in the subject you're researching and find the empirical information.

2) Empirical: adjective -- based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.

"they provided considerable empirical evidence to support their argument"

synonyms: experiential, practical, heuristic, firsthand, hands-on

Since you clearly have no idea what the median of people on welfare is, you should try meeting more than a couple before making a decision. Your uninformed opinions actually harm the conversation. Let's try something radical, some actual facts.

According to the actual FACTS, the demographics for the SNAP (food stamp) and AFDC programs are:

18% of Americans receive welfare (not 51%...................)
The average age is between 18 - 29, which is understandable if there are no jobs or jobs that don't pay a living wage.
Black women are demographically are in the highest category overall.
Poverty rates for black/African American groups rank at 33% higher than any other ethnicity in the US.
Teenage mothers are in the highest recipient rate.
Next highest categories are the elderly, disabled, and working poor.
The majority of people receiving welfare of any sort lack proper educations.
The majority of people only stay on welfare for two years.


Pew Center, "The politics and demographics of food stamp recipients" 2013
Overview of Entitlement Programs, Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Characteristics and Financial Circumstances of TANF Recipients, Fiscal Year 2010"
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities "Contrary to "Entitlement Society" Rhetoric, Over Nine-Tenths of Entitlement Benefits Go to Elderly, Disabled, or Working Households" 2012

....So what were you saying?

Gent Schevner's picture

Good to see

It's a start. Should have been a lot more. The city's criminal elements have preyed upon these properties for a long time now. To be blunt, unless these properties are demolished they will continue to become havens for the city's scourges of prostitution and crack/heroin addiction. The addict prostitute really won't mind the 'red x' symbol. In fact, it tells them there is a good spot to squat.

I know it isn't an easy problem, but it was encouraging to see some action. Hats off to landlords that hired hands to clean this up without a formal prompt from the city.

KELLY SCOTTI's picture

Well Bob, that's a modest

Well Bob, that's a modest proposal. What's the annual salary cutoff for this program? I suggest we solve the unwanted pregnancy problem at the same time. Surely it's not the first time it's been suggested but with the current political climate I'm sure we can make it happen.

Bob White's picture

Why has it taken three fires

Why has it taken three fires for them to be doing this?

Bob White's picture

They live like animals maybe

They live like animals maybe we should start treating them like animals and stop feeding the animals. We have signs that say "no feeding the animals" at our National Parks out west.



The only animal around here is you.

How can you treat people like you do?

What gives you the right to judge them??? You're talking about people you don't know--and the really sad thing is that it's obviously you're uneducated or under-educated, hateful, spiteful, angry, and excessively ignorant to the situation you're trying so hard to talk about. I don't know what's happened in your life to make you so bitter, but you need to stop using it as an excuse to lash out to others.

I mean really, is the word ..... the very concept of COMPASSION alien to you? Seems to be since you're talking about HUMAN BEINGS. And I have to wonder exactly what and how YOU live like since you're so brutally judgmental. I mean, I can see now why you'd quote Romney like he knew anything about anything; you're as arrogant as he is. And Mr. Holier Than Thou, that arrogance is dangerous and harms people in politics. Your arrogance is mirrored by LePage's---and events like LePage refusing federal funding to expand Medicaid. People have no access to cancer treatments, or dialysis, and I as a woman cannot get cervical cancer or breast cancer screenings due to arrogance like yours. But hey, that's okay if we all drop dead right? Because you see fit to stereotype us rather than lowering yourself and meeting the very diverse groups of people receiving some form of government assistance.

For your information Sir, I am on SSDI. I was injured in an INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT that left me PARALYZED and in a WHEELCHAIR for four years of my life. I fought doctors, the state and federal system--and my own body to walk again. Unable to return to my work sector (because my body cannot physically perform manufacturing or retail duties), I had to turn to the system I PAID TAXES INTO for help and got in return for MY money and investment a serious lack of representation by government and medical officials.

Yet I persevered and moved forward as well as possible. Now I'm a 3.8 GPA student in criminal justice. Now I am on the Dean's High Honors list at CMCC. Now I'm a member of the national honor society Phi Theta Kappa. And NOW I am having to fight people like you and LePage to get chiropractic care and physical therapy because the answer in Maine for people with chronic conditions that need management is to dope them up instead of helping them get better and manager their problems.

I know a lady with a cervical cancer scare and another person battling Lyme disease who are going through the same thing..... but that's okay because without knowing us, you've decided we're all animals.

Well, if we're animals, I have to wonder what that makes you. If only because I've seen many animals with far more compassion than you as a human being display. In my mind, that makes animals far more superior creatures than you'll ever be Sir. More than that, if I do not live up to your expectations, I suggest you lower them.....

Steve  Dosh's picture

ed. 21:00 hst Tuesday (

ed. 21:00 hst Tuesday ( still )
Nice newspaper ?
Better than the other one http://www.twincitytimes.com
/s , Steve


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