Town bars entry to problem house in Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor officials put up placards Tuesday at a house at 36 Greeley Ave. prohibiting  anyone from entering the property. The house has been deemed unsuitable for habitation and neighbors have complained of people coming and going from the property engaged in inappropriate and possibly illegal behavior.
Bill Trotter | BDN
Bar Harbor officials put up placards Tuesday at a house at 36 Greeley Ave. prohibiting anyone from entering the property. The house has been deemed unsuitable for habitation and neighbors have complained of people coming and going from the property engaged in inappropriate and possibly illegal behavior.
Posted Aug. 29, 2013, at 2:29 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 29, 2013, at 7:29 p.m.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — The town’s fire chief has declared a local home unsafe and posted placards prohibiting entry into the building, which neighbors say has been a source of problems for years.

The home, located at 36 Greeley Ave., has been the focus of complaints of vandalism, disruptive behavior, suspected drug activity and alleged animal abuse, according to town officials and neighbors contacted this week.

On Tuesday, Bar Harbor Fire Chief Matt Bartlett, serving as the town’s acting health officer, posted placards on the building barring anyone from entering because of “unsafe/unstable/unsuitable” conditions inside the home. The house is grown over with vines, has trash strewn about the yard and front porch, and has not had running water for some time, according to officials.

Bartlett said Thursday that neither he nor members of the Fire Department have been inside the house, but town officials are concerned that conditions inside the home may be unhealthy.

“They are being asked to contact us,” Bartlett said of the owner, William H. Thurston Sr., and his family.

Neighbors contacted Wednesday did not want to be identified because of concerns for their safety.

One person who has been the subject of complaints about the property is William “Bo” Thurston, whose father owns the home. Neighbors say the younger Thurston, who is 19, and friends of his have been hanging out at the house while his father has been living elsewhere on Mount Desert Island.

Bo Thurston, who earlier this year was sentenced to serve six months in jail for stealing firearms from a local inn last December, was arrested Wednesday at the local village green on a probation violation for allegedly testing positive for drug use, according to police.

The owner of the property, William Thurston Sr., could not be reached this week for comment. An attempt Thursday to contact an attorney who represented Bo Thurston in the firearms theft case also was unsuccessful.

Earlier this month, 18 Greeley Avenue residents signed their names to a letter sent to town officials raising concerns about people who have been hanging out at the property. They wrote in the letter that some neighbors have witnessed “obvious” indications of drug activity at the house.

“They are loudly foul-mouthed as they come and go and at least one of us has been personally threatened,” the neighbors wrote in the letter. “Many of us are too frightened of retaliation to speak up.”

On Wednesday, neighbors said that though traffic to and from the house has tapered off in recent weeks, they suspect people still are coming and going from the house at night.

“I’m just so sick of it,” said one neighbor, who asked not to be identified because he is concerned about possible retaliation. “Everyone has had enough.”

People who have been hanging out at the house have acted bizarrely and rudely to neighbors, according to another neighbor who also asked not to be identified. Windows on nearby houses have been broken with shots from BB guns and neighbors have been targeted by laser pointers from the property, she said.

And there also have been strong smells emanating from the house that have alternated between sweet and rotten, she added.

“I’ve loaded up bags and bags of trash [picked up from the property’s perimeter] to try to make a dent,” she said.

Nate Young, chief of Bar Harbor police, said Thursday that his department has increased patrols past the house and has looked into allegations of crimes being committed at the property. He said neighbors have complained about multiple people who have frequented the property, not just the younger Thurston, but that town officials have not had luck contacting the property owner.

“The actual owner of the house has done nothing to secure the house and keep people out,” Young said Thursday.

According to Sgt. Shaun Farrar, police have investigated the alleged killing in December of 2011 of a dog at the house. Contacted Thursday by phone, Farrar said the dog had been owned by Bo Thurston, who had taken it a few times to a local veterinarian for treatment of mange.

But Thurston stopped taking the dog to the vet, apparently because of financial problems, and the dog’s condition worsened, according to Farrar. He said the police investigation indicated that the killing may have been an attempt to put the animal out of its misery, which would be legal, but that the method by which the animal appears to have been killed was not legal.

After receiving a tip about the dog’s death, police found it buried on the property in early January 2012 and took it to the local vet for a necropsy, Farrar said. The vet determined the dog may have been stabbed and that its throat had been slit, but that the fatal wound was caused by a blow with a blunt object to its head, he said.

“That was what killed it,” said Farrar, who described the dog as a Rottweiler mix. “It’s way outside [the legal methods permitted for the mercy killing of a domesticated animal]. In my opinion, it definitely was a criminal act.”

Farrar referred questions about prosecution of the matter to the Hancock County district attorney’s office. An attempt Thursday afternoon to contact officials at the office was unsuccessful.

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