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Main Street eyesores to come down

September 09, 2009
BERLIN — Two buildings on Main Street that burned in January will be cleaned up in the coming months after complications extended the timeline for demolition.

The city secured signatures on RSA 155-B orders for 90 and 92 Main St. to allow the city to go onto the properties and remove the debris.

"We went through five judges because of conflicts of interest," said housing coordinator Andre Caron.

There were multiple owners of the various properties, he said, and several local judges had been involved in real estate dealings with one or more of the property owners. They chose to recuse themselves from the case to avoid the appearance of conflict. In the end two different judges were required to get both orders signed.

The delays in the courts followed lengthy negotiations between the property owners to deal with the wall of 92 Main St., which remained standing after the fire. It supports part of 94 Main St., the building to the north, and so taking it down risks damaging that property. The city tried to negotiate a cleanup in April, Mr. Caron said, but because of the wall none of the parties were willing to do anything. The city started the RSA 155-B process in May.

The governor and executive council should sign the paperwork for the $4 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds on September 26, he said, at which time the city will put out bids for the clean up. The cleanup should cost between $90,000 and $100,000 for both properties, Mr. Caron estimated.

The two parcels will be covered over and seeded at the end of the process. The sites, which are each 0.04 acres, will have an assessed value of $5,300. The city will lien each property for the cost of its cleanup.

If someone wanted to buy the properties they would first have to pay the liens, Mr. Caron said. "At the end of the day for someone it might be worth it."

But most likely they will sit for three years, at which time the city can take the property, he said.

The process to separate owners of their property is slow, Mr. Caron said, even in cases where the owner hasn't cleaned up after a fire. The city did everything it could in this instance, he said, it is the process that took so long.

The two buildings on Main Street aren't the only buildings going through the RSA 155-B process, Mr. Caron said; the property at 360 High St. had an order sent out in late August. Another property, 67 Granite St., will hopefully be demolished shortly, but this one didn't require legal action. The owner is waiting for the insurance money to be released.

"There's going to be a lot of demolition going on in October," Mr. Caron said.

Martin Lord Osman
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