Blighted building's owner exhausts board's patience
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | May 10,2014
PHOTO BY LEN EMERY
The Springfield Select Board has refused to extend a demolition deadline for this dilapidated building on Valley Street.
SPRINGFIELD — The dilapidated building at 25 Valley St. will come down, one way or another, Town Manager Robert Forguites said this week.
The town put the dilapidated building, which at one time was a bakery, on its Top 10 List of dilapidated buildings last year, and the town has been trying to have it either demolished or fixed for the past year with no success.
During a recent Select Board meeting, the board refused to give owner Don Bishop another extension to do something with the building.
Bishop had come to the board to ask for additional time after his April 30 deadline. He also had failed to meet a Dec. 1, 2013, deadline.
But board members said they were reluctant to give Bishop any more time since he hadn't made any progress on fixing the building in the past year.
At one point in the meeting, Forguites, sounding a little exasperated, asked Bishop how much he wanted for the building.
“Do you have an interest in selling the whole property?” Forguites asked.
And Selectman David Yesman, who is a real estate agent and also head of the local Habitat for Humanity chapter, admitted that he had been trying to buy the dilapidated structure from Bishop for a number of years and was still interested.
“Give me a number,” Yesman said.
That prompted Selectman George McNaughton, who is a lawyer, to say that Yesman could not vote on anything to do with Bishop's request, and he needed to recuse himself.
“I don't want the town to be subjected to a lawsuit. Somebody just made it clear they have a conflict of interest,” McNaughton said.
“What conflict of interest?” Yesman said.”I have no intention of making a profit.”
Finally, Town Attorney Stephen Ankuda, who was at the meeting for another issue, got involved, and said with Yesman's interest and Forguites' question, the town was now facing a problem and could be accused of “holding a sledgehammer” over Bishop's head. He urged the two board members to withdraw a motion to demolish the building and let the earlier deadline stand.
“So that means I'm done,” Bishop said.
Earlier in the meeting, Bishop told the board the problem wasn't repairing the building, which has visible structural problems, but what to do with his possessions inside the building.
He said he didn't have the money to rent a space for the items. “I had hoped to come into some money,” he said, “so I could buy something to move my stuff to.”
Instead, he said, he was coming to the board “hat in hand” to ask for another extension.
“What are you proposing?” asked Board Chairman Kristi Morris.
“I'm still proposing I will take it down, but I hate to rent a place.”
Bishop said he had “talked to a fellow today” who was interested in the property, and he wanted an extension until the end of July.
But Selectwoman Stephanie Thompson said in her 30 years of living in Springfield she had been “waiting to see it fall down” and she said Bishop had exhausted her patience.
“I'm begging for more time,” Bishop said.
“I'm not confident a few more months will make a difference,” Thompson said.