WEST PARIS — Town officials say they will ask a resident to clean up his property before seeking a court order forcing the demolition of a burned-out building deemed a safety hazard.

Selectmen voted unanimously Thursday evening to have the town attorney draft a letter addressing their concerns about the dilapidated building and begin the court process for forcing its removal if there is no compliance.

The property, at 289 Bethel Road, belongs to Nicholas Kontos, according to town records.  

Maine law allows municipalities to declare structures that are unsanitary, unstable or fire hazards “dangerous buildings.” The designation allows the municipality to order the disposal of the structure at the expense of its owner. 

According to a timeline provided by Town Manager John White, the residence was ravaged by fires in 2009 and 2011 that rendered it uninhabitable. Kontos is said to live on site, though not in the gutted structure. 

In June 2014, three years after the last fire, the town began exploring options to secure the building, requesting informal meetings with Kontos. Those escalated into formal requests, and last January, he was served with a dangerous building order, essentially a notification that the town had begun proceedings that could result in the structure being forcibly torn down.

For several months, there was no action taken on the order. In May, however, Kontos indicated he would do the work himself over the next few months and declined to sign a waiver indemnifying the town from liability if it or a contractor tore the structure down.

Despite the order, White said that after a recent tour, nothing had been done to remedy the situation. White told selectmen that the building was more than an eyesore — it also presented a safety concern. 

“It appears that more junk and debris have been placed on the property,” White wrote to selectmen. “The burned out remains of the house remain standing. A small path through the junk is the only way into the property and would make it very difficult for emergency personnel to enter the property in response to a fire or medical emergency.” 

The town may have to ask voters to set aside funds to cover the legal expense, a sum as yet unknown, he said. 

Selectman Randall Jones said the town would halt legal proceedings as soon as Kontos, who did not attend Thursday’s meeting, came into compliance, but needed “to get the ball rolling.” 

“It might stimulate ambition to get it cleaned up,” Selectman Dennis Henderson said. 

When Selectman Peter Collette suggested sending another certified letter to Kontos, Jones quipped, “He’s probably going to react to it the same way as before, and put it atop the (junk) pile we’re trying to get rid of.” 

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