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Court hears Bath's request to remove couple from house

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Court hears Bath's request to remove couple from house

BATH — The residents of a house deemed unsafe by the city face possible removal from their home, pending a court hearing on the matter scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 17.

Alan and Yvonne Orchard of 45 Windjammer Way do not believe repair of the dilapidated 1920 house is an option. They have said they hope to move into a partially subsidized one-bedroom apartment on Bluff Road, which they have been told would be available soon.

The City Council ruled 7-1 on Dec. 5, 2012, that the Orchards' home is dangerous. Two weeks later the council gave the couple four months to decide if they will repair or demolish the building. If they choose demolition, that must occur within 11 months.

The council also ordered the Orchards to secure the building when they leave, preventing entry except for repairs, demolition, or removal of their personal property.

Code Enforcement Officer Scott Davis enforced that order by posting the house Dec. 29, 2012, and informed the Orchards that they would be in violation of the city code if they chose to live there after that point. He previously deemed the building dangerous after he inspected it with a structural engineer last September.

He said Wednesday that the city is taking the matter to West Bath District Court to seek an order from that the Orchards leave the house. If granted, and the Orchards did not leave voluntarily, the city could take the couple back to court on contempt charges.

Another option could be to have police remove the couple from their home, Davis said, adding that he would rather it not come to that.

"Hopefully they're going to be living in safe, decent housing by then," he said. "... I'd hate to show up there and force them to leave their home."

Putting the Orchards out on the street is "my absolute last hope as to how this goes," Davis said, also noting that it is not a foregone conclusion that the judge would rule in the city's favor.

Alan Orchard, an 81-year-old former carpenter, has acknowledged that the house they have lived in for 26 years is in bad shape, and said he and his 55-year-old wife have tried to find another place, but money is their problem.

Yvonne Orchard has said she and her husband approached the Bath Housing Authority for help, 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.

She said Wednesday that she has not heard anything new about when the apartment would be available, and that she and her husband did not have anyplace else to go if they have to leave their home.

She said last month that the city has offered them temporary housing in Brunswick, but that they declined out of fear of the pipes freezing at their Windjammer Way house.

City Manager Bill Giroux has said that all the city officials involved in the matter have been doing all they can to assist the couple "in every way possible."

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