Cavendish residents decry decrepit building McNamara may step in as 'building safety officer'

53 Depot St. has become an eye-sore and a safety concern for nearby residents. Photos by Julia Purdy.

By Julia Purdy
©Telegraph Publishing LLC

At its regular meeting Monday May 14, the Cavendish Select Board responded to concerns of residents of Depot Street in Proctorsville about the extremely dilapidated building in their midst, located at 53 Depot St.

Patrick Moore and Aaron Silidker, of the North Country Condo Association, came armed with file folders of clippings and photographs documenting the steady deterioration of the massive century-plus old building that, according to Margo Caulfield of the Cavendish Historical Society,. was once a boarding house.

Moore’s and Silidker’s condo buildings are located at 51 and 55 Depot St., respectively. Number 53 is sandwiched between them on its own parcel.

Hastily put up plywood doesn’t mask the problems.

The neighbors urged the Town of Cavendish to act on its 2011 Dangerous and Derelict Building ordinance as soon as possible. Silidker said it represents “clearly a danger,” adding that loose pieces of it fall off during storms, the foundation is collapsing as the building settles, and the basement is open to the outside through an old window opening. Photos show piles of lumber stockpiled around it and decades-old charred timbers from a major fire poke out around hastily attached and sagging plywood sheets.

Moore has owned a condo unit at 55 Depot since 2000, when, he said, the real estate agent told him the town was going to condemn 53 Depot. In the intervening 18 years, there have been several fires, he said.

The two added that vermin, including foxes, have been seen going in and out of the structure, and that the condo neighbors have a hard time getting insurance due to the conditions surrounding  53 Depot.

They both said they have reached out to the owner, Rose Kauppinen, the widow of Dean Kauppinen, but have gotten no response.

George Timko, who was chairing the meeting, called the situation “complicated.” He said this has been discussed before. It doesn’t fall strictly under the ordinance and is in use, he said, adding, “It used to be worse.”

Moore asked why Cavendish hasn’t acted on its dangerous-and-derelict ordinance the way other towns have. The liability falls upon the town “if this thing comes down,” he said.

Town Manager Brendan McNamara said he and Health Officer Doris Eddy investigated the building last year for a reported rat infestation, but could not assign the building as a cause, since rats could be coming from the nearby river.

McNamara said he has “no problem” acting as “building safety officer” under the ordinance but wants to consult with town counsel about the proper steps to follow after conducting a building inspection as called for in the ordinance. He also wants to talk with Rose Kauppinen first.

Other board members weighed in from opposite ends of the argument. Mike Ripley stated he was “reluctant” to tell people what to do with their property. Sandra Russo urged prompt enforcement action.

McNamara split the difference and asked the board to approve June 1 as an outer limit for him to step in, after which the board could consider how to handle the problem. Russo made the motion; it was seconded and passed unanimously.

Town Garage loan; new utility truck

In other business, arrangements for the replacement of the town garage are proceeding with the signing of a promissory note from Mascoma Bank for $400,000 at 2.6 percent annual interest.

The Cavendish Select Board discusses the Town Garage progress.

This loan will provide initial funding for the construction phase.  McNamara said the town decided not to approach the Vermont Bond Bank because it requires external audits every two years, “but the time frame being what it is we don’t have the finances for an external audit.”

Also, the Request for Proposals for the Town Garage project were distributed to board members for their review before being advertised.  McNamara told The Telegraph on Monday May 21 that the town is waiting for the site plan from engineers Weston & Sampson which will also go to the board for review. According to McNamara, the site is currently being prepped, all utilities are in the ground and the building is being fabricated off-site, with construction expected for July or August.

The town is looking for a new utility truck. The current Highway/Sewer Department truck “has exceeded its useful life,” will not pass the next inspection and has no resale value, said McNamara.

It’s used daily and takes “wear and tear” off the town dump trucks. There are some funds left in the capital equipment fund. Assistant Town Manager McEnaney said refurbishing was investigated but the rust is too extensive. It was confirmed that the “new” truck would be a used vehicle; replacement cost would be about $20,000. No vote was taken; the consensus of the board was to pursue costs and trucks for replacement.

The board approved three requests:

  • Peter LaBelle of Cavendish Community and Conservation Association requested use of the Proctorsville Green for the organization’s annual Summer Concert Series July 11, 18 and 25 and Aug. 1, 8, and 15.
  • Cordwood Events DBA Pizza Lupo asked for permission to provide alcoholic beverages to cater a private pizza party given by Singleton’s General Store for about 50 employees June 2.
  • And Cavendish Town Elementary School asked for use of the Proctorsville Green for its June 19 graduation ceremonies and for Principal George Thomson’s retirement party.

All’s well that ends well for homeowner Elizabeth Treitter. Back in February 2013, the town issued her a check for overpayment of property taxes, which was subsequently mislaid in her house. Treitter finally discovered it while cleaning, but it could no longer be cashed, so she requested a reissue, which was approved by the Town Treasurer. The board approved the reissue.

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