January 16, 2013

Helpers wanted for China family forced to move

Unsafe conditions cause town to require family of 5 to vacate property

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

CHINA -- A local woman is organizing an effort Saturday morning to help a family that is being forced to move from its home because town officials have deemed the property dangerous.

click image to enlarge

Judith Farris, left, and her daughter, Becky Ratcliff, are being forced out of their China home by the town, which says the trailer and outbuildings are unsafe.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

Michelle Qualey Andrews, an Erskine Academy graduate who lives in South China, is asking volunteers to show up at the Fire Road 60 home at 10 a.m. to clean up the yard. She's hoping some of the volunteers will bring pickup trucks to help haul away trash.

The Board of Selectmen voted in August to require Judith Farris, 70, and four family members to vacate the property after an inspection showed unsafe living conditions that included mold, a lack of running water and holes in the floor and ceiling of the mobile home. When they did not leave, the town took the matter to Kennebec County Superior Court.

Last week, Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy gave Farris and the town until Tuesday to turn in documents to update her on a pending Probate Court proceeding. Farris is barred by a will from selling the property, although she believes she has a buyer and is hoping a probate judge will let her modify the will's terms.

The town wants Murphy to sign an order to force the family to move so the buildings -- the mobile home, a garage and a 10-foot-by-12 foot shed -- can be demolished. Town officials have offered to help Farris move to a local motel, but Farris has said she wants her daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons to continue to live with her.

Larry Ratcliff, the son-in-law who lives on the property, said the family is preparing to file documents Tuesday, but that they have not found a new place to live.

Andrews said she dropped off some donated items recently and offered to help Farris clean the outside of the property.

"I just can't see anyone being put out of their home," she said.

Susan Cover -- 621-5643

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