FARMINGTON — After a yearlong effort to resolve State Fire Marshal concerns over a West Farmington residence, selectmen decided unanimously Tuesday to get a court order to correct code violations.
Joel Bridges, formerly Joel Batzell, owns the property at 103 Bridge St. It's known as Thoughtbridge, a nonprofit ministry that Bridges said takes in homeless people and those "others have thrown away."
Bridges met again with selectmen Tuesday to address the progress on 11 violations noted in an October 2008 State Fire Marshal inspection. The inspection was held after a visitor to the building fell through a hole in the floor that was used to access another floor by use of a ladder. The visitor made a complaint.
Five of the life safety improvements have been corrected, Code Enforcement Officer J. Stevens Kaiser told the board.
The board has been given regular updates and extended deadlines for completion throughout the year.
"It's been a year," Selectman Jon Bubier told Bridges, who responded, "I'm not dragging my heels, I have health issues." He said his health is improving, and he plans to do some carpentry himself.
He rose to face the local access channel television camera to tell the board and home viewers "all you want the property cleaned up . . . you can come help me."
He told selectmen that they and the news media are making it look like he was dragging his heels, he said.
"We've given you ample time," Bubier said.
The board agreed that regardless of the reasons for the delays, ultimately it's the property owner's responsibility.
Members looked to Town Manager Richard Davis for advice on the next move.
Davis suggested the town file for a court order and let a judge decide how to obtain code compliance.
Bridges responded, "go for it" and said he would "love to argue the case in court" because many buildings in town would not meet new code standards developed since the early 1990s.
The building has a hallway 2 inches too narrow and ceilings that are too low, the owner said. If the government wants people to meet the new standards, then it should help low-income people make that happen, he said previously.
In other business, legal action regarding removal of fire debris left from a Maple Avenue home was put on hold by the board after volunteers in the community helped two brothers clean up the debris over the past two weekends.
Benjamin Cummings told the board about New Life Community Church in New Vineyard and others who came to the rescue by providing new hope for him and his brother, Jonathan, owners of the property destroyed by fire last December.
The board gave Cummings until the end of October to cap off the Maple Avenue end of the building with a "presentable" exterior. The board will hear an update on the work at its Oct. 27 meeting.