OXFORD — A decision on whether to declare a King Street home a dangerous building will be put off for two weeks, so selectmen can determine if the town has followed correct procedure in the matter. 

“We’ve never done this, so we want to make sure that, moving forward, everything is done correctly,” Selectman Scott Owens said. 

Town Manager Michael Chammings and Code Enforcement Officer Rodney Smith, during a public hearing Thursday, presented evidence that the small home at 260 King St. presents a safety hazard.

Homeowner Leon Morse disputes that the home was unsafe and told selectmen he has hired someone to begin cleaning up the property, but has been unable to make progress due to the difficult winter. 

Maine law allows cities and towns to declare structures that are unsanitary, unstable or fire hazards “dangerous buildings.” The designation allows the municipality to order the disposal of the structure.

Chammings and Smith presented photographs to selectmen allegedly showing that building’s back side is falling apart and there is accumulated trash and debris, including old paint cans, littering the front porch.

Their concerns are supported by Oxford fire Chief Scott Hunter, who said in a recent letter to Chammings that the structure’s roof is in danger of collapse, especially after this year’s snowfall. He urged selectmen to tear the building down “as soon as practical.”

“It’s the town’s position that the building is unsafe, unsanitary and a fire hazard,” Chammings said. 

Smith said he first alerted Morse to clean up the property this past November, and when he received no response, requested that selectmen move forward to designate it a dangerous building. 

Morse said the building is structurally sound and he fully intends to clean it and make it livable again, but has not had a chance to address the property.

“That building is a post-and-beam building that was built back in the 1800s and it’s solid,” Morse said. 

He lived in the home until two years ago, and shut off the electricity and water when he locked it up, Morse said. The building that is falling apart on the back side is a shed that is unconnected to the main house, he told selectmen. 

Morse denied that the building’s internal flooring was collapsing or that the structure posed a fire hazard.

Chammings told selectmen that the town was mainly concerned with having the building’s back side cleaned up, but if Morse believed it could be salvaged a building inspector could come through to determine whether it was a fire and safety hazard. 

Selectmen decided to postpone a decision until a finding of the facts, following a discussion with Shana Cook Mueller, an attorney from the Bernstein Shur law firm in executive session. 

Owens said a finding of the facts would help make sure the town is following proper procedure in case of a lawsuit over the property. 

“It’s just making sure everything is done right to protect the town, and actually, to protect Leon too,” Owens said. 

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