Sanford City Council took steps Monday to have rubble from two multi-family buildings the city demolished following a fire on Island Avenue a week ago and to demolish an adjacent single family home heavily damaged in the blaze. Credit: Tammy Wells | Journal Tribune

The city of Sanford will seek bids for the removal of the rubble from buildings demolished at 33 and 35 Island Ave. following a fire a week ago. City officials were to hold a pre-bid meeting with prospective contractors Wednesday.

Additionally, the city will seek bids for demolition and removal of 28 Thompson St., a single-family dwelling that backs up to 33 Island Ave. which was substantially damaged by the fire, after a 30-day appeal period.

Landlord Christopher Eric Farris represents Harry Farris of Epping, New Hampshire, who owns both 33 Island Ave. and 28 Thompson St.

At a emergency City Council meeting on Monday, Farris said he hadn’t decided whether to renovate the 28 Thompson St. structure, but was prepared to make that decision in a week. He said if renovations were not viable, he’d take the building down.

Renovation seems unlikely. The Sanford City Council approved a dangerous building designation for the Thompson Street property. Farris has 30 days to appeal. If he chooses not to appeal or if his appeal is unsuccessful, the building will come down — through a bid process — and the city will seek to recoup costs, either through a special assessment or civil action.

Farris had until 6 p.m. Tuesday to board up 28 Thompson St.

Questioned by councilors, he said the property was self-insured.

Codes Enforcement Officer Shirley Sheesley said the property has holes in the roof, heavy water damage, broken windows, and hasn’t been occupied since 2011. She said that it is unsecured.

Farris claimed the property has been occupied as recently as a three years ago, but Sanford Water District has confirmed there has been no water service to the property since July 2011.

Farris said he had planned to repair the single-family dwelling after evicting the former tenants, but was delayed, he said, because he was told that the building would require an entire new electrical service.

The council, noting the issues with both 28 Thompson St. and 33 Island Ave., deemed them both dangerous and a nuisance as defined by state law.

Councilor Fred Smith said neighbors had organized a trash removal at 33 Island Ave., and hauled away five pickup truck loads of rubbage there the week before the fire.

“And this property has been vacant six years,” Smith said of 28 Thompson St.

Neighbors have complained about drug activity they have said emanated from 33 Island Ave., holding a recent sit-in to draw attention to the matter.

Councilors alluded to the issues Monday.

“Landlords don’t have as much authority or rights as people think they do,” said Farris.

“I have no faith in this owner,” said Councilor Lucas Lanigan, a sentiment echoed by Councilor John Tuttle.

The two multi-unit buildings at 33 and 35 Island Ave. were charred and weakened from the blaze. Sanford Fire Chief Steve Benotti and Fire Marshal Patrick Cotter have determined they were unsafe and in danger of collapsing into the narrow street. The two buildings were torn down Thursday night after the fire was extinguished.

The council had also been scheduled to make a dangerous building declaration for 35 Island Ave., but Sanford City Manager Steve Buck said the city has entered into a consent agreement with York County Community Action Corporation, which owns the property.

That means the corporation has agreed to pay for the cost of demolition that took place the night of the fire, to remove 50 percent of the rubble — the debris from both multi-unit buildings is co-mingled — removal of the foundation, fill and fencing.

In all, 100 firefighters from 25 departments responded to the blaze.

Cause of the fire is undetermined, but State Fire Marshal Joe Thomas said it is believed to have started on the first or second floor porch at 33 Island Ave.

Because of a mix-up in the start time of Monday’s meeting, councilors met with neighbors after the session had formally ended.

Neighbors talked about forming a group to assist fire victims on an ongoing basis. Neighbors and others had pulled together to help families displaced due to the fire. While donations of items like furniture and clothing is on hold for now, those wishing to help can go to the Go Fund Me page called Island Avenue Fire Victims.

Neighbors also asked that 28 Thompson St. be fenced, as 33 and 35 Island Ave. are.

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