MOOERS — Eloi Duguay has less than a month to clear away the remains of the former funeral parlor/apartment building here that collapsed on Jan. 11.
If he doesn’t, Town of Mooers Code Enforcement Officer Jess Dixon said, the municipality will get the job done and add the cost to the St. Hubert, Quebec, man’s property taxes.
And once the bill comes from Luck Brothers for knocking down the structure — an emergency measure ordered by Town Supervisor Jeff Menard that night — Duguay will be assessed that cost, too.
When one wall and more than half of the roof gave way, spilling onto the shoulder of Route 11, the remaining structure looked far from stable, the supervisor said.
“It was just kind of teetering there.”
Duguay bought the three-story brick building, which had housed E.F. Drown Funeral Home and four apartments, on Aug. 10, 2012, for $11,500, knowing his investment had serious issues, Dixon said.
“I condemned it mid-sale.”
The structure, erected in 1950, had been vacant for a couple of years; the funeral business moved out six or seven years ago, Menard said.
The Clinton County Real Property website lists its condition as “poor.”
Duguay had paid the taxes on the place in 2013, the Treasurer’s Office said; no information was yet available on the 2014 amounts.
‘MADE SOME REPAIRS’
Dixon said Duguay never told him what he planned for the structure, only that he was looking for investors.
And, the code enforcement officer said, “he kept asking for a certificate of occupancy.”
That wasn’t going to happen, Dixon said, unless the building proved safe, with numerous issues remediated.
Once Duguay owned the property, Dixon required him to provide an engineer’s report listing the repairs needed to stabilize the building.
“It was a cursory list,” the code officer said, but it was a start.
Duguay performed a basic cleanup, clearing away such debris as fallen bricks, Dixon said, and he removed the outside stairway that posed a safety hazard.
BULGE IN BRICKS
Neighbors reported what they perceived as a danger sign five days or so before the collapse — that the porch was separating from the building front.
That had been a longstanding issue, Dixon said, but he notified Duguay that the snow needed to be removed from the porch roof, and the property owner had that done.
With that mass of white gone, Dixon said, “you could see the bulge in the bricks.”
There was also a large crack in the structure’s southwest corner, he said, which raised concerns about a possible collapse onto Maple Street.
“The school buses stop there,” Dixon said.
So on Wednesday, Jan. 8, they closed the road.
‘REPAIR NOW OR TEAR DOWN’
The next day, an engineer performed a visual inspection, and Dixon quickly emailed the findings to Duguay.
“You have to repair everything right now or take the building down,” he said he told him.
Duguay’s responses, Dixon said, indicated he felt the issue was “beyond his control.
“He said, ‘I don’t know what to do.’”
As of late last week, Duguay had not responded to any emails since the collapse, Dixon said.
Duguay could not be reached by the Press-Republican for comment.
No one was injured when the building fell, Menard said.
“We’re just luck it was late at night and not much traffic.”
Response had been planned in advance, considering the threat posed by the building.
The State Department of Transportation, already set up in Champlain, “were able to respond immediately,” Dixon said.
And others quickly mobilized — Mooers Volunteer Fire Department, Mooers Highway Superintendent Dick Boulerice, Champlain Volunteer Fire Department and State Police.
“I appreciate everything everybody did,” Menard said.
“There was a real, real good response,” Dixon said.
Now, the town awaits Duguay’s response.
“It will take some time,” Dixon said, “but it will get cleaned up — either (by) him or us and we’ll bill him for it.”
Email Suzanne Moore:email@example.com