Wednesday, December 11, 2013
By Amy Calder email@example.com
(Continued from page 1)
John Weeks on Wednesda stands in front of his downtown Waterville building on Main Street that was destroyed by fire in May. Weeks says he plans to raze the structure and possibly build another at the site.
Staff photo by David Leaming
John Weeks walks through the damaged first floor of his Main Street building in Waterville that was destroyed by fire last May. Weeks says he plans to demolish the structure and may rebuild at the location.
Staff photo by David Leaming
He said Weeks has been cooperative with him and the only issue with the burned building is aesthetic.
"Obviously, we'd like our neighborhood to be as good-looking as it possibly can be," Giguere said. "It's going to be nice when the building gets taken out — for all of Main Street."
Eyesore and danger
Buildings damaged to this degree ought to be removed, according to fire Chief David LaFountain.
"Besides being an eyesore, there's a level of danger there," he said. "The sooner it comes down, the better."
After the fire, the City Council launched a committee to look at sprinkler systems downtown, inspection records and other safety-related issues.
The council on Sept. 3 voted to authorize LaFountain to enforce national fire safety codes downtown. Council Chairman Erik Thomas, D-Ward 4, said at the time that when the fire occurred, nobody was designated as a person who had the authority to enforce codes already in place.
Downtown business owners who attended the Sept. 3 meeting asked whether buildings that have never had sprinkler systems would now be required to have them. The cost to do so would be prohibitive, they said.
LaFountain said his department does regular fire safety inspections downtown and works with building owners to help them comply with codes. He sought to assure building owners that if they have had inspections from the Fire Department and were found to be in compliance, they should not worry.
The discussion was the result of concerns about the fire at Weeks' building. LaFountain said Weeks turned off the sprinkler system in 2005 and it was understood he would turn it back on if he had people living in the building, but that did not occur.
A matter of survival
Weeks said that several years ago he renovated the second floor of the building and had to remove about a third of the sprinkler system in order to do the work. At the time, he didn't plan to have people living in the building, he said.
He said he hired a person who needed a place to live and he offered him one of the apartments, not knowing he was violating code. He was then told he had to have a sprinkler system, which would have cost about $30,000, he said.
At his request, Weeks said, the State Fire Marshal's Office walked through the building with him to determine how he could bring it up to code without having to spend that much money. Weeks installed a fire wall and added fire doors.
"I was trying to do the right thing and still economically survive," he said.
Weeks' business, JR's Trading & Pawn, previously occupied the first floor of the building. He ultimately moved the shop to 100 Elm St. and INK-4-LIFE moved into the space he vacated. After the fire, the tattoo shop moved across the street to the former Levine's clothing store and now has an entrance on Front Street.
Amy Calder — 861-9247