RUMFORD – Town Manager Len Greaney spent Friday trying to do right by four tenants being evicted from two tax-acquired town apartment buildings on Waldo Street.

Using economic development funds, Greaney decided to provide vouchers for security deposits to landlords who have space for the tenants from 426 and 438 Waldo St.

“It’s a helping hand instead of a handout,” Greaney said. “We’re just trying to do the right thing.”

“We’re doing this because these are two buildings we own, and I feel that the whole thing hasn’t been worked out well. What’s involved are landlord-tenant problems that we’ve inherited and we’re just trying to do the best we can.”

Friday’s action came after Greaney and Rumford selectmen were harshly criticized at Thursday night’s board meeting by Rumford landlord Jim Barnett regarding major life-safety code violations found at 426 and 438 Waldo St.

Additionally, Barnett said the town was improperly trying to force tenants from the buildings, including a handicapped woman and a young mother with a 5-week-old baby who had nowhere to go.

Barnett also accused the town of having no insurance on the buildings.

Greaney said Friday that wasn’t true. Rumford has liability insurance on the properties, but he wasn’t sure about it at Thursday night’s meeting.

“This thing is very complicated and the landlord is a woman who is potentially dying of cancer,” Greaney said.

He called both town attorney, Thomas Carey, and Maine Municipal Association attorneys twice each Friday, then had Carey draft an eviction notice and begin the process to force the four tenants out.

The town is also working through the state welfare department to help the tenants, Greaney added.

One tenant lives at 421 Waldo St., while the second- and third-floor apartments at 438 Waldo St., respectively, have a handicapped woman and the young mother as tenants. The first floor is vacant. The 438 Waldo St. tenants plan to room together in another apartment, Greaney said.

Once the tenants move out, the buildings will be kept vacant and placed on the market for sale, with the proviso that any and all life-safety code violations be fixed by the new buyer.

Should the buildings not sell, Greaney said he would seek permission from voters to demolish them.

Greaney said he visited both Waldo Street buildings on Friday and met with the tenants after checking heating oil levels downstairs and seeing firsthand several of the code violations Barnett mentioned.

“I tripped twice going down the treacherous stairs and checked the heating fuel, which was between one-quarter and one-eighth full. Certainly, that’s not enough to get them through a month.

“Today, the town takes possession (of the buildings), so if the fuel tanks need a couple hundred bucks worth of fuel, we’ll keep (the tenants) warm until they move out, which makes me feel a lot better. We’re trying to be sensitive and solve problems for the tenants,” Greaney said.

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