ORONO, Maine — After spending nearly the entire first semester ousted from their home, the brothers of Pi Kappa Alpha — or PIKE — have returned to their fraternity house.
Of the 22 PIKE members who lived in the College Avenue house when it was shut down by town officials on Sept. 13, 13 moved back Nov. 29. after the building passed inspection. Another three or four brothers are planning to return next semester, according to John Armstrong, PIKE’s president-elect.
“It’s a fresh start for us,” Armstrong said Saturday in the house’s living room, over the squeaking and scraping of furniture being moved around upstairs. It was their first weekend back in the house in nearly three months.
Orono Code Enforcement Officer William Murphy and Fire Department officials shut down the building in September after an inspection revealed a long list of code violations.
The list of problems in the building, which was built around the turn of the 20th century, was a long one. Some were minor, such as broken and missing railing balusters, while others, especially a fire alarm system that no longer alerted emergency responders because of unpaid bills, were more dangerous code violations.
Together, the 17 or so problems that officials found caused a “life-safety concern,” and students couldn’t be allowed to live there, Orono Code Enforcement Officer William Murphy said in September.
“In total, they rose to enough of a safety concern to warrant that they not live in the house,” Murphy said.
The building was deemed unfit for habitation and the students were told to leave.
Since then, they have lived on campus, in other apartments or with relatives. The brothers who aren’t returning have signed leases elsewhere, according to Armstrong.
The violations weren’t a surprise, according to Sundance Campbell, president of PIKA Housing Corp. of Maine, the nonprofit group of PIKE alums that acts as landlord for the fraternity members.
PIKA estimates the repair costs will amount to $25,000 and has taken out what is essentially a mortgage to pay for the repairs, according to Campbell.
After the first round of major repairs in October fixed large problems, such as a leaky bathroom floor and broken “exit” signs, town officials came in for more inspections. But each new inspection uncovered new problems, according to Armstrong.
“There always seemed to be a new list of issues with every set of eyes,” Armstrong said.
The new lists of “tedious, nitpicky” problems delayed their return to the home by about a month, according to Armstrong.
Minor aesthetic fixes will continue throughout the year, according to current PIKE president John Dufour. Jobs such as recarpeting the stairs and refinishing the wood floors are still on the to-do list, he said.
The best thing to come of all this is a fresh start in an old house that feels new and improved communication between the brothers and the PIKA Corp., Dufour and Armstrong said.
Dufour said the fraternity brothers are expected to treat the house better and avoid future damage.
“People are definitely being held to higher standards,” he said.
There’s a saying that’s frequently used by the fraternity’s brothers in tough times, Dufour said.
“‘Yesterday is gone forever, tomorrow is yet to be,’” he said. “We’ve just been telling ourselves that through this whole process.”