BUCKSPORT, Maine — While the future of a now-closed motel at the entrance to downtown Bucksport remains in legal limbo, the property continues to deteriorate, according to town officials.
Last week, during a routine check of the Fountain Inn on Route 1, Bucksport town officials found that pipes had burst at the motel, resulting in inches of standing water and several collapsed ceilings.
The damage has added to already existing problems at the motel, which was deemed dangerous by the Bucksport Town Council in April. At the time, the council found that the inn is a structurally unsound fire hazard with a host of unaddressed safety issues.
In May, the inn’s owner Asad Khaqan filed an appeal of the Town Council’s decision in Hancock County Superior Court, claiming the town was biased against him. That case is working its way through the legal system.
The new damage was discovered on Jan. 6, when police found several doors open at the property. When the town’s code enforcement officer Luke Chiavelli went to check it out, he noticed a window and a door open on the second floor of one of the buildings. Inside he found that burst pipes caused parts of the building to flood, resulting in extensive water damage.
“It’s just completely trashed,” Chiavelli said.
The water and electricity to the property had been turned off around the time it had been declared dangerous, but town officials said both had been restored since. Chiavelli said he was unsure why the water was on at this time of year, especially considering the property’s faulty heating system.
Khaqan, who lives in New Jersey, said he was aware of the broken pipes and had hired someone to fix it.
“A pipe burst is a normal thing,” he said. “I think now we’ve just got to correct it.”
Overall, Khaqan claimed that his crews have made good progress at the property since the council’s decision in April. He hired Haley Ward, a Bangor engineering firm, which wrote in a May letter that the buildings were “not in imminent danger of collapse” based on visual inspections. Several containers of junk had been removed from the property and he provided receipts for that work, as well as sheetrocking and plumbing work.
There was a slight “hiccup” when a local business didn’t finish work they were hired to do at the motel, Khaqan said, but he hoped to address the issues cited by the town in the near future.
“I’m sure they will be able to button this up pretty soon,” he said.
But Khaqan’s apparent optimism is not rooted in the reality of what’s going on at the motel, Chiavelli said. Even before the new concerns with the broken pipes, some of the safety issues have been going on for years and have not been addressed.
“They got their original list of violations in January 2019 from the state fire marshal’s office and they haven’t fixed those yet,” Chiavelli said.
Chiavelli has done two inspections on the site since the summer of 2021 and said that minimal changes had been made. The first inspection around mid-summer turned up sporadic and incomplete work, Chiavelli said. The second inspection ended before it started because the head contractor told Chiavelli there was nothing new to show, he said.
For any chance to reopen, the inn would need to do extensive wiring, plumbing, heating, cleaning and structural repairs. Sheet rock, proper fire alarm panels and smoke detectors also would be needed.
“If the owner actually put the resources necessary to address all the issues (reopening it) would be fine, but in truth, there are now more issues than when we issued the dangerous buildings order,” Town Manager Susan Lessard said. “I am skeptical that there is a magic wand to fix this.”
If the property is revived, Khaqan envisioned reopening the motel back to the tenants that lived there and possibly renting out to tourists at some point. He has also fielded several offers to buy the property.
“We’ll see,” he said of a potential sale. “Maybe we’ll consider that.”