Town to seek court order to oust family from ‘dangerous building’

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LIVERMORE FALLS — Town officials will go to court to get an order to make sure a Birch Street family moves out of a house that selectmen have declared “dangerous.”

Town Manager Jim Chaousis told selectmen that due to impending safety concerns, owner Roger LaPlante was encouraged to leave immediately and to remove his personal belongings by May 25.

Selectmen voted in April to give LaPlante 30 days to fix internal and external deficiencies and clean up trash at the residence.

A previous code officer had put a cease order on the construction of an upper level on the house in 2008 due to code violations.

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Chaousis said Monday that an inspection was done on the site May 12 to check on the conditions and a structural engineer was also present.

Structural engineer Jason Potter concluded in a letter to Chaousis dated May 14 that “the building is not safe and in imminent danger of collapse.”

“Please note that I do not reach such a conclusion lightly; it is a conclusion that has ramifications for the whole community,” Potter wrote. “My calculations indicate that the roof, as currently constructed, does not have the strength required for proper self support. You can see visual evidence of this in the sag of the roof.”

Additionally, the walls have multiple hinges, where one wall is built upon another without lateral ties, which destabilize the walls, Potter said. Plus, the wall sheathing is not adequately attached, with too few nails and large, inconsistent spacing, and does not provide proper closure or lateral stability, he said.

Potter also said the wall adjacent to Park Street and a portion of the wall adjacent to Birch Street have been undermined and do not have adequate temporary support.

A piece of the plywood on the exterior of the house had come off the house and hit a wire on Park Street, also known as Route 133 recently, Chaousis said.

Resident Val Nichols said it definitely sounds like town officials have made up their mind to tear down LaPlante’s house.

He knows for a fact, Nichols said, that they could go into other houses in town and find that they are not structurally sound.

LaPlante’s house needs work, Nichols said, but so do others.

He has been working hard to try to get it repaired and no charitable organizations have stepped in to help him, Nichols said.

Town officials should visit places where people are living in boxes or shopping carts before they make two more people homeless, Nichols said.

LaPlante’s adult son also lives with him.

Once the legal process starts, the town cannot stop, board Chairman Louise Chabot said.

You told me at the very first meeting that you need to find LaPlante a place to live, Nichols said to Chabot. The town manager even offered him a tax-acquired trailer that Chaousis knew LaPlante would refuse, Nichols said.

The town has no obligation to replace the house that will be torn down, Chaousis said.

“But we have arranged to put him up in a hotel,” he said, until LaPlante finds a place to live.

It would be dealt with like a general assistance request, Chaousis said.

“I just hope the judge makes us find him a home,” Nichols said.

Voters will be asked on June 8 if they want to take $30,000 out of town’s surplus account to take care of dangerous buildings. Chaousis said previously he did not expect it to cost that much to demolish and remove the debris from the Birch Street property.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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