May 21, 2018
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Elderly couple to expected to stay in house as Bath City Council pulls eviction order

By Larry Grard, Times Record

BATH, Maine — They never left.

Alan and Yvonne Orchards tested city- and court-ordered eviction orders to their extremes, and thanks to the good works of others, they remain in their home of 29 years at 45 Windjammer Way.

The roof and foundation have been shored up, thanks largely to Russell DuPree of Freeport. In mid-February, the couple learned at Sagadahoc County court that an order to vacate the home has been rescinded. The Bath City Council is expected to do the same on Wednesday night.

At last check, the Orchards were contemplating a move to 28 Bluff Road, in an apartment arranged for them by the city. Alan Orchard, 81, never bought into it.

“That was my doing that we didn’t move in there,” he said Friday, sitting in his living room with his wife and Steve Page, who is advocating for him with the Veterans Administration. “I never put the cart before the horses.”

The City Council ruled 7-1 on Dec. 5 that the Orchards’ home is dangerous. Both Scott Davis, the city’s code enforcement officer, and a structural engineer had inspected the building, and came to the same conclusion.

An eviction order and a court order followed. The Orchards appealed, and in stepped DuPree.

DuPree said he learned of the Orchards’ predicament in a Times Record story. Alan Orchard, a former carpenter, had argued all along that the building needed to be repaired, but presented no immediate danger. The couple have no money to repair it, or to pay rent for an apartment.

“I got a bit fired up, thinking it was unreasonable that they should be evicted if in fact their house was not dangerous to stay in,” DuPree said.

DuPree went to see the Orchards in late January, and got permission to begin his work. Attaching 2- by 4-inch cleats as a “chicken ladder,” he replaced part of the caved-in roof with half-inch plywood sheeting in early February.

Then, Lilly Bellmore happened by. Bellmore, a second-shift supervisor at Bath Iron Works, and her son Larry LaVallee have been helping the Orchards.

“She went by and wanted to help,” DuPree said. “She bought two tarps. Larry LaVallee and Gary Hart helped. Between the four of us, we put the tarps on the roof.”

Then, DuPree checked out the foundation — the portion of the house that actually had the engineer most concerned.

“I got under, jacked up one part and put a concrete block tier in with plywood on the ground and with wood shimming, and then two more concrete blocks. Scott Davis got under there, and said he was favorably impressed. He suggested a few more improvements, and I did them. The engineer and Scott Davis were satisfied that that part of the structure was safe.”

Then came the news that the court order had been rescinded.

“I’m glad that it worked out that way,” DuPree said. “I’d like everybody to come out winners in this situation.”

City Council Chairman Bernard Wyman said Friday that the council must rescind the order.

“They fixed the place up so the engineer was satisfied,” Wyman said. “It’s no longer unsafe. We have to go in and rescind the order. It’s already rescinded in court.”

All was calm in the Orchard household on Friday.

“We were very happy, and relieved,” Yvonne Orchard said.

And they’re both happy they didn’t move into 28 Bluff Road, across the street from the Feb. 12 explosion that destroyed a duplex and killed Dale Ann Fussell. The location is about a mile from their home.

“I heard it all the way up here,” she said.

Alan Orchard is happy to have some peace and quiet.

“They were pounding on our door so much,” he said. “They were pushing, pushing, pushing. I didn’t care how much they pushed.”

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