Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house deemed unfit for habitation

Posted Sept. 15, 2011, at 5:07 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 15, 2011, at 6:41 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — The 22 University of Maine students who lived in the Pi Kappa Alpha — or PIKE — fraternity house have been relocated after town officials found housing violations and safety problems that forced them to shut down the building Tuesday.

Of the 22 residents of the PIKE building, 21 students have accepted a university offer to live in residence halls for a week, according to university spokesman Joe Carr.

After that, the students will have to either become on-campus students, paying the fee for room and board, or move to a different off-campus residence.

On Tuesday, the Orono Fire Department went to the fraternity house after a parent called to report an issue with the furnace and request that carbon monoxide levels be checked in the building, according to Orono Code Enforcement Officer William Murphy.

The fire chief called Murphy to the scene and the pair inspected the building, which had so many violations that they decided to close the house for the sake of the students’ safety.

Students were instructed to move out by 8 o’clock that night, according to Carr.

Among the violations were a fire alarm system that didn’t work properly, emergency lights that didn’t function, a missing banister on a balcony, a furnace that hadn’t been serviced, water in the basement and trash and clutter problems.

“In total, they rose to enough of a safety concern to warrant that they not live in house,” Murphy said.

The building has not been condemned, but has been labeled unfit for habitation, Murphy said.

Robert Dana, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said the condition of the building got dangerously out of control and there was little students could do about it.

Dana said he didn’t believe the students were getting enough support or aid to fix the building from national or local PIKE alums.

The best thing for the students was to get them out of that living situation, Dana said.

“You cannot live in squalorous conditions that could potentially make you ill and do well in your academics,” he said.

Parents and residents had complained to town officials in the past about the condition of the building, and the group that owns the building — a housing corporation run by local fraternity alumni — promised to fix the problems, so the town didn’t take any action.

The repairs never happened, so parents started calling again in the past few weeks, prompting the inspection, according to Murphy.

Students were well aware of the problems with the building, Dana said, but didn’t have the resources to fix the problems themselves.

“They deserve safe living accommodations, and we will put the full force of the university behind them in terms of supporting them,” he said.

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