Bath couple seeks options after home is deemed unsafe

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BATH — Faced with fear last week about where they would go if evicted from their home, Alan and Yvonne Orchard are now gaining some options.

The City Council voted 7-1 on Dec. 5 that the Orchards’ dilapidated home at 45 Windjammer Way is dangerous. But councilors tabled a decision on what to do about the building and its residents.

The council plans to discuss the matter again on Wednesday, Dec. 19.

Meanwhile, the Orchards have met with city staff to discuss what options they have for moving to a new home. One might be a partially subsidized apartment near Bluff Road, which would not be available until Jan. 1, Yvonne Orchard said Sunday.

In the meantime, community members have offered their services to make the Orchards’ existing home a little safer.

“We’ve had people come to fix the roof,” Alan Orchard, an 81-year-old former carpenter, said. “I can’t go up there. (My) doctor says no, because (if) my balance goes I would just fall off, (and) mess up (Yvonne’s) life, too.”

“I really appreciate it,” he said of the community support. “I love what their intentions are.”

Code Enforcement Officer Scott Davis, who inspected the house with a structural engineer in September and has deemed it dangerous, stated in a report that the house’s foundation footing had settled; its rear joints rested on wet soil; “variable settlement” had caused some parts of the floor sheathing to be unsupported, and a main support beam supporting the joists at the center of the house had failed.

A blue tarp covered a large hole in the roof, and roof framing around that tarp had failed, “with missing sheathing, failed sheathing bowed between remaining rafters, and rotted rafters with parts of the rafter missing,” Davis also noted, adding that he found the house to be out of plumb.

Alan Orchard has acknowledged that the house is in bad shape, and said he and his wife have tried to find another place to go, but that money is their problem. He has said knows the structure of the house and is not worried about its integrity, and that the building had leaned long before they moved in 26 years ago.

According to the Bath assessor’s online database, the house was built in 1920.

Yvonne Orchard, 55, who has worked at Shaw’s for 19 years, has said she and her husband approached the Bath Housing Authority, but they were told there is a two-year waiting list for Section 8 housing – government assistance to low-income renters – and a six- to 12-month wait for elderly disabled people.

The Orchards have been together 33 years and married for 26.

Talking about what’s kept them together during that time, Alan Orchard looked at his wife and said, “I made her a promise, didn’t I, now? There will be no arguing, and no fighting. … And she agreed to it. … She’s been a godsend to me.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Sidebar Elements

Alan and Yvonne Orchard are working with Bath city staff on finding a new home. The city says their house is unsafe.

Alan and Yvonne Orchard have lived in their 45 Windjammer Way home for 26 years.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.