BELLOWS FALLS -- The owner of a property issued an emergency health order by the town apologized for the trouble to members of the Rockingham Selectboard on Tuesday and said she feels she can get the house back in order by July 2014.
Mary Smith owns the building at 14 Tuttle St., which Rockingham Health Officer Ellen Howard said has received multiple health orders for various violations since last year, and expressed her sorrow to Selectboard members at their bi-weekly meeting.
"I purchased the property years ago and had lived there and enjoyed it and I have very fond memories of living in the house," she said. "I have made some calls and I have the order here from Ellen and I am prepared to meet these (requirements), having the foodstuffs and rubbish out by Dec. 31, the soft furnishings, such as chairs, couches, mattresses, out by Jan. 30. The plumbing and the water and wastewater will take longer because I had planned on closing the house up so that I didn't have to heat the house during the winter. I didn't want to live there and I wasn't able to rent it in its condition."
Smith said she has already contacted a cleaning service and has talked to Ruggiero Trash Removal for Dumpster rental because she would like to move back in and rent out two of the building's other apartments.
She told Selectboard members the house is not a bad place and has lovely architecture. Rockingham Selectboard Chairman Tom MacPhee said he knows that -- because he lived in the house as a freshman in high school. Smith said the building has frequently been vandalized, as she has had trash cans stolen and once saw that a couch had been dumped in the driveway. Smith also said she would occasionally go away a period of time only to come back and find young men staying in the house, making her fear for her safety and forcing her to contact the police.
Howard explained she issued one emergency health order due to the conditions of the property's exterior and another regarding trash accumulation. She said neither were complied with.
"This property has been a problem since December of last year and it's only gotten worse," she said, adding that it is boarded up and there is a strong odor of human and animal waste.
Howard told Selectboard members the house, as of Tuesday, did not have water service.
Earlier in the first item on the agenda, attorney Fletcher D. Proctor, representing Saxtons River resident Christopher Morrill, addressed the Selectboard about a possible discontinuance/reclassification of an old town road running from River Street to Westminster Street in Saxtons River. Morrill owns a residence on the piece of property that abuts the portion of River Street the Selectboard is thinking about discontinuing.
According to a memo from Howard, who is also the Rockingham planning-zoning administrator, the road was laid out in 1818, the same year the westerly end River Street running north-south was laid out. The east end of River Street was not laid out until 1878. Proctor previously presented to the Selectboard a letter he sent to Agency Land Director Mike Fraysier to encourage him to reconsider his support of a plan to create a park on site as well as the proposal to discontinue the road.
Proctor said Morrill "is not enthusiastic" about the park proposal on the adjacent property and the possible discontinuance. He also said he wishes the Saxtons River Village Board of Trustees, with whom his client is at odds, "would lay their cards on the table" and he feels everyone involved is playing a "cat and mouse game." MacPhee said he thinks an ideal situation would be for Morrill and the trustees to come up with an easement that suits all parties.
The Selectboard went into deliberative session with Proctor to further discuss the matter, as well as the one involving 14 Tuttle St.
In other business: The Selectboard voted unanimously to initiate proceedings to re-classify or discontinue town highway 48 Bezanson Road, including any Class-4 sections continuing off the Class-3 portion of the highway.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.