Farmington homeowner, town at odds over living conditions

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FARMINGTON – Anna Powers said she is being punished for providing eight other people, four dogs and numerous cats shelter in her small run-down, 200-year-old house on Philbrick Street.

Town and state officials see it differently. They say the arrangement is unsafe and unhealthy, and they want changes. Code Enforcement Officer J. Sevens Kaiser inspected the premises July 9 and cited conditions that violate state laws, codes and standards, he said Thursday.

Issues raised by Kaiser and members of Farmington Fire Rescue, the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Farmington Police Department include impeded entrances and exits, extensive electrical hazards, no central heating system, multiple space heaters and animal feces and urine in the basement.

“You have a ‘dangerous building,'” he wrote in a certified letter to Powers, that is unsanitary, a fire hazard, unsuitable and improper for use and occupancy, inadequately maintained and dangerous to life and property.

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Kaiser acknowledged the occupants of the house as three families and tenants of Powers.

Powers, longtime friend Jane Roberts, and her 14-year-old grandson, Paul, have been living in the small cape since 2003, she said Thursday. Roberts’ ex-husband, Dave, is also there.

Joining them are Alicia and Charles Mitchell with children Victoria and Ashley Mitchell, and son Francis Glassmire, who came to Maine last August, Powers said.

“They had nowhere to go so I told them they could live here,” she said.

Three of the children are disabled, one underwent surgery for a brain tumor and one had heart surgery as an infant, and her grandson is autistic and is presently away from the house but is expected to return soon, she said. Recovering from back surgery herself in June, Powers said she helps Jane, who has had two strokes. Three of the five adults have diabetes.

Although expecting the family to contribute to household expenses, she said, she doesn’t consider them tenants.

“For lack of a better word, I called it rent,” she said, “but we live together as a family – we are the only ones that we have. We help each other. I’m being punished for trying to be nice.”

Powers acknowledged that the house is too small for all of them, their belongings and pets.

“So we’ve been trying to get a loan to get a larger house, but we would stay together,” she said.

Wiping beads of sweat from her forehead, Powers and the other occupants sat in the approximately 12- by 12-foot kitchen area that now includes her living room furniture because that room has been converted to a bedroom.

“The house is messy and needs repair,” she said, “but the children always come first. We just can’t make much progress.”

Powers said there are other houses in town in similar condition, but hers was targeted after someone reported their situation to state health officials.

“Inspections are done after cases are brought to our attention,” said Kaiser, who added that “this is not a combative situation just a tough one.”

It is one that the Board of Selectmen will address at a public hearing on Aug. 14.

State law allows selectmen to hold a hearing to determine if a building is dangerous, Town Manager Richard Davis said. If deemed so, “they can order it to be cleaned up and repaired within a certain time. If the owner doesn’t comply, the board can take them to court or can actually cause the repairs to be made at the owners expense by creating a special tax. If the tax is not paid, then a lien can be placed on the property,” he said.

 

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