BREWER, Maine — After three city officials testified Tuesday night about horrible conditions inside the long-abandoned residence at 4 Somerset St. — broken sewer pipes, collapsed ceilings, white and black mold — city leaders determined it is a dangerous structure.
Whitney Devlin, 20, daughter of the homeowners, who are both deceased, sat in the back of the City Council chambers quietly listening.
“It’s a little disappointing. There are a lot of memories and I can’t do anything to stop it,” she said after the meeting, with her friend Logan Grant standing beside her.
The young Brewer resident tried to move into the house and fix it up last year but by then the home had been abandoned for 4½ years and was in disrepair. The mortgage also was $62,000 in arrears.
“I attempted to fit it up,” Devlin said. “It needed a brand new roof, plumbing, electrical work. It’s a lot of work and I was not in a financial situation to do it.”
Devlin said when Code Enforcement Officer Ben Breadmore knocked on the door at 4 Somerset St. in June 2012 and he pointed out all the hazards in the home, she was devastated.
“He told me all the reasons why it should be condemned,” Devlin said.
One neighbor said he would help with the roof and Devlin said she got a large trash receptacle to fill with debris from the house, but then she fell on hard times and the work was abandoned.
In the last year, vagrants and scrap metal thieves have raided the house and stolen everything of value, leaving a pile of trash in their wake. The scrappers removed all the copper piping and cut a sewer line in the basement and left the end open and leaking, which flooded the basement and caused white and black mold to grow.
“Now there is black mold throughout the house,” Devlin said. “It saddens me that it’s so deteriorated.”
Devlin’s mother died when she was young and she lived at the house with her father and stepmother until her dad, Frederick Devlin, known locally as “Mr. Fred,” got sick and died in March 2008.
Her stepmother, who since has remarried and lives in Bangor, was at the public hearing but did not speak. Fred Devlin’s trustee, Brewer resident Jeffrey Hamaday, was also in attendance but only said, “I agree” when asked for a comment by Mayor Kevin O’Connell.
City Solicitor Joel Dearborn explained on Monday that the paperwork for the home still says it is owned by Karen and Fred Devlin, and with both homeowners deceased, ownership of the home falls to their two adult children or Fred Devlin’s second wife, who “has no desire to have any interest in the property.”
City councilors deemed the house “structurally unsafe, unstable, unsanitary, constitutes a fire hazard, is unsuitable or improper for the use or occupancy for human habitation and therefore constitutes a hazard.”
The order gives the owners or parties-in-interest 31 days to fix the identified problems before the city pursues Penobscot County Superior Court action to acquire and then demolish the property.
Devlin said she just could not afford to fix the problems with her parents’ home.
“It’s just a really bad hand of cards to be handed,” she said.