Brooks residents to vote on proffered gift of rundown home

Posted Sept. 08, 2011, at 10:53 p.m.

BROOKS, Maine — A dilapidated house in the middle of Brooks that has stood vacant for a number of years is being offered as a gift to the town, although at least one outspoken resident thinks that this gift comes with expensive strings attached.

Residents will vote at a special town meeting at 7 p.m. Monday whether to accept the property from present owners Russell and Andrea Read. If voters say yes, they will then be asked whether to form a committee to bring ideas forward about what to do with the home, which is located on a .75-acre lot at the intersection of Routes 7 and 139.

“I want something to be done with it. It’s been vacant for a number of years,” Selectman Mike Switzer said Thursday. “But I also don’t want to have it as a tax burden for the taxpayers of town.”

That’s why officials have called the special town meeting, which has been posted in places around the community, he said.

“It’s something that could potentially cost money … If the taxpayers don’t want the selectmen to accept the gift, we certainly won’t accept it,” Switzer said.

The large, older building formerly was owned by Delmont Clark, an elderly man who kept cats, and Switzer said that local officials who toured the interior last week found the home to be in poor condition.

“You can clearly see that it has taken a good amount of wear and tear,” he said.

Although it was apparent that parts of the home have been updated, it wasn’t possible during the visit to determine the state of the wiring and plumbing, he said.

According to Town Clerk Jane McLaughlin, the town office has begun gathering information regarding possible outcomes for the building — including demolishing it, for which she has received a quote of $30,000. Another possibility might be to have it burned down.

It wouldn’t be the first time that the town has accepted the gift of a decrepit building. The town office is located in the Fogg House, which was rehabilitated over three years by volunteers from the town and the 133rd Army National Guard.

Switzer said he expected the community would determine what to do with the property based on the outcome of an inspection and evaluation. He said that the owners were supposed to have done a property appraisal but that has not yet occurred.

“It may be more behooving to the town to knock it down than renovate it,” he said.

Efforts Thursday to speak with the property owners were unsuccessful.

However, resident Duke Simoneau said Thursday that he feels strongly that it does not make fiscal sense for Brooks to accept the gift of the home, which he called “contaminated” by the cats.

“On the one hand, the theory is that if we clean up these old buildings, that will make the town that much nicer,” he said. “But it’s not the job of a small town to take possession of every junk piece of property.”

Simoneau, who was involved in the rehabilitation of the Fogg House, said that townspeople made a plan to tackle that project before they decided to take it on.

“It’s a matter for private dollars, and not the town, to take over every little problem,” he said.

The special town meeting about the property will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12, at the Brooks Firehouse at 19 Purple Heart Highway.

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