The mansion at 116 Church and its partner at 124 were built at the same time in 1882. Both are part of the estate of Franklin Perras and have been empty for some time.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Health on Wednesday condemned seven buildings as being unfit for human habitation.
Health Inspector Valerie Nickerson Bird told the board during the public hearing held at City Hall that condemning the buildings meant no one could live in them for reasons ranging from lack of electricity or water to serious structural damage.
Among those condemned were the prestigious pair of brick Queen Anne mansions on Church Street that had been owned by Franklin E. Perras Jr., who died in June at age 79.
The houses are vacant, Bird said. "One-sixteen is not secured and people have been going in and taking copper, I believe."
The two structures were designed by Marcus F. Cummings of Troy, N.Y., the architect of what is now the North Adams Public Library. Also known as the A. W. Hodge House (116 Church) and the Walker House (124 Church) they were both built in 1882 by bricklayers and contractors brought from Boston.
"Cummings' lively designs use polychromatic brick and granite trim, segmental-arched windows, sawn dormer hoods, and tall decorative chimneys to embellish houses of irregular plan and massing, complete with turrets," states the city's nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places. The two brick homes and a third vacant Perras house at 130 Church that also was condemned sit in the Church Street-Cady Hill Historic District
Attorney Anthony Doyle, of Barry & Doyle in Pittsfield, attended the hearing on behalf of Trustco Bank, which holds the mortgage on 124 Church and is in the process of foreclosure.
"Mr. Perras died in June and has a son who has not stepped forward to probate the estate, so the bank is stepping up," he said. "We have no objection with the city of North Adams boarding up the property ... we have to go though a legal process to get title to the property before we can do anything."
Perras purchased 124 Church in 1994, 116 Church in 2008 and 130 Church in 2009. In 2008, he took out a $258,000 mortgage from Trustco on 124 Church. Earlier that year, he had been ordered by the city to raze a decrepit apartment building on Arnold Place. This past July, the city put liens on 116 and 124 Church and another Perras property on Arnold Place for back taxes and fees totaling about $12,000 at the time.
Doyle said the bank's only interest was in 124 Church; it had no connection to other two buildings. Bird said the city was not in a position to do anything with the three structures and that they would be sent to the attorney general's office for receivership. Doyle said that was not an issue for the bank.
Also condemned were two multifamily homes on Liberty Street at 46-48 and 146-148.
The vacant house at 46-48 Liberty owned by LaSalle Bank had the water turned off earlier Wednesday, Bird said. "It is unfit for human habitation. There is extreme filth and structural damage as well."
The building at 146-148 owned by William Romeo had broken windows and issues with squatters coming and going. It has now been boarded up, Bird said.
Another multifamily dwelling at 106-108 East Quincy St., owned by the nonprofit Coalition for Stronger Community, was said to be used for storage. The organizers were currently doing work in Puerto Rico and notified the city they were making plans to remove their materials but the structure is in very poor condition and considered unsafe.
A single-family home at 211 Houghton St. has no electricity and is required to be boarded and secured. However, attempts to reach the owner of record, Lakeside Portfolio Management of the state of Florida, including by registered letter, have been unsuccessful. It also will be turned over to the attorney general's office.
The green house on Houghton was condemned but the blue one is undergoing renovation.
But its neighbor, at 215 Houghton, seems to be getting a new lease on life. Co-owner Louis Beveraggi told the board that he and Jamie Labonte had purchased the building in April and plan to renovate it for rental. The overgrown brush has been removed from the front and brush and articles in the back are in the process of being removed, though slower now that the weather has turned.
"It has electricty, currently it has doors, it has locks," he said, adding the taxes are up to date as well. The house should be habitable by next summer.
Bird agreed it had been cleaned up and some work done since it had initially been targeted.
"We don't want to condemn it at this time because it has a new owner," she said.
A final house on the list, 12 Oak St., had already been condemned in 2013.
In other business, the board declined to get involved in a tenant/landlord dispute over 65 Hall St. The tenant, who is in the process of being evicted, had requested an inspection by the city but was not happy with the code enforcement officer's findings of largely cleanliness issues. This was the second time she had requested an inspection but she did not attend Wednesday's meeting.
"She called into question the previous inspector," Building Inspector William Meranti said. "I'm having a difficult time without her here explaining it ... and difficulty in determining what or why it is we're supposed to accomplish."
• Meranti reported on an incident at McDonald's in which the septic began backing up in the serving areas and bathrooms, requiring a late evening inspection and closure.
"It took shockingly long between the time they first noticed it until the call to dispatch," Meranti said. Once the management was guided as to closings and getting the system repaired, it was able to open the next day. He was confident that the restaurant management would now act more expeditiously should it happen again.
• The board also elected officers for the coming year: John Meaney is chairman and Kevin Lamb is vice chair.
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