JAY — Selectmen voted Monday to hire a structural engineer to inspect a fire-damaged building before renovation continues to convert it to a two-story apartment building.
The cost of hiring Bunker & Savage Architects of Augusta to do the inspection of 24 Jewell St. will be between $750 and $1,200, depending on how many hours it takes, Code Enforcement Officer Shiloh LaFreniere said. Town Manager Ruth Cushman asked LaFreniere to go along for the inspection.
Selectmen had previously decided to hold a public hearing on the property as a potential dangerous building but canceled it after LaFreniere spoke to the owner and she was willing to have an inspection done.
LaFreniere told selectmen that owners Rose and Michael Grimanis of Farmington are willing to allow an inspection of the building to determine its structural integrity.
The former three-story apartment building was heavily damaged by a fire started by a 2-year-old on Feb. 17, 2011. The owners have had the third-floor removed and are in the process of making it into a two-story apartment building and rent out the first and second floors.
Some residents have complained that it has taken more than a year to get this far and they have seen little progress. Others said they have seen progress though it is slow. The Grimanises said they are doing the work on limited funding.
Many residents questioned the structural integrity of the building and whether it would be safe for renters once the work is complete.
LaFreniere said Craig Boone of Jay, an owner of the Augusta firm, believes it will take four to five hours to do the inspection.
Resident James Butler Jr. said he didn’t feel the town should have to spend that amount of money on an inspection to determine if the building is dangerous. He said there is nothing in the state dangerous building law that suggests an inspection.
“It is dangerous,” Butler said of the building.
Selectman Tim DeMillo said since this case is a first for Jay, he would like to have the opinion of a structural engineer, since there was a fire before it is deemed condemned.
There have been other buildings that have had fires and that have been rebuilt, he said.
Board Chairman Steve McCourt said he agreed to get the building inspected, because there was a fire and people are going to live in it.
Livermore Code Enforcement Officer Richard Marble, a certified building inspector who was asked by town officials to attend the meeting, said he could tell if something is being built right or wrong in new construction but if there was a fire, he would rely on a structural engineer.
Selectman Justin Merrill said the inspection would be cheaper than going to court to get the building condemned and having no information about why it should be condemned.