August 1, 2009

City hired unlicensed contractor to knock down house

For an emergency demolition a year ago, the city hired a contractor to tear down a Fall Mountain Road house.

However, the contractor, Letourneau Builders of 550 South St., that the city chose to raze a three-family home at 385 Fall Mountain Road owned by Melanie Church-Dlugokenski, was unlicensed.

After an investigation, state police last month charged Letourneau, 38, with engaging in the business of demolition without a certificate of registration from the state Department of Public Safety.

City Building Official Guy Morin, who condemned the house and gave Letourneau the order to demolish it, said Friday he thought Letourneau — who was registered by the state as a new home and home improvement contractor — was properly licensed.

“It was a mistake on my part that I didn’t confirm that he had the actual certificate in his hand,” said Morin. “It’s never happened to me before. It won’t happen again.”

Letourneau could not be reached for comment.

Mayor Art Ward said steps have been taken to ensure the city would never repeat the mistake.

“I was quite upset when I was informed about it,” Ward said Friday.

Morin said, though, that he has no second thoughts about whether the house needed to come down.

“It was unsafe. It was open to trespass. It was a catastrophe waiting to happen,” Morin said. “Part of the house had already collapsed.”

Letourneau charged the city $59,600 , a figure that Morin said included asbestos abatement, a job Morin said Letourneau gave to a sub-contractor. “It was a very big house and they did a lot of work,” said Morin.

Attorney Ralph Keen, who represents Church-Dlugokenski, said his client’s civil rights were violated.

Keen said Bristol Police Officer Tom Lavigne, who initially called Morin’s attention to the house, had no right to be on the property in the first place.

According to state police paperwork on the Letourneau case, on May 7, 2008, Lavigne “conducted an investigation of the property … upon reportedly observing an unregistered junk vehicle in the driveway.”

Lavigne looked around some more, the affidavit says, and then called Morin and asked him to inspect the structure.

Morin condemned the house that day, and he and Lavigne posted a notice of condemnation and “secured the perimeter with yellow barrier tape,” the affidavit says.

The following day, Morin ordered Letourneau to demolish the house, according to the affidavit. On June 18, more than a month later, Morin told the city assessor’s office that the building had been razed between June 16 and June 18.

Keen claimed that Letourneau arrived with bulldozers on May 8 and commenced demolition.

“Within one day, the house was essentially destroyed,” said Keen.

But Morin said there were no bulldozers or demolition equipment at the house on May 8.

“She had at least a whole month before anything was done there,” said Morin.

Though Keen acknowledged that the house “wasn’t pristine,” he and Morin differed on the severity of its problems.

“Animals were living in it. Beams were falling in,” said Morin, who said work on the house had been done incorrectly, contributing to the problem. He said there were several additions to the structure and that some of the worst damage was behind an attached garage.

“The roof had caved in. The floor had rotted out. It was unsafe,” Morin said. “There was imminent danger that the main house was going to collapse.”

Keen said the owner’s husband, Don Dlugokenski, was living in the house, but Morin said he saw no sign that anyone was living there.

“It was a total disaster inside the house,” said Morin.

Not so, said Keen.

“The house had stood there in that condition for months,” said Keen.

While Keen admitted that there were “issues” with the roof and some parts had fallen in, that raccoons had moved in – and some had died in the house – he said there was nothing dangerous about it. It was a big house, and no one was living in the problem areas, said Keen, who said it was in the process of being repaired.

Keen maintains that his client, who lives in Terryville, was away in Florida during the demolition and that she didn’t know what was happening until she returned home and found a letter from the city and her house gone.

Morin said it didn’t happen that way. He said there was plenty of time for the owner to make repairs or halt the demolition process.

He issued an order to the owner to repair, but got no response, Morin said.

“She took no action to stop it,” said Morin. “She was happy it was coming down. She had an insurance policy that included demolition of the building.”

It was only after the insurance company decided that it was the owner’s neglect that brought on the problems and wouldn’t pay out, said Morin, that the owner became upset.

Keen said that’s “ludicrous,” that no homeowner has insurance that covers demolition. She had insurance, he said, but she’s still discussing the settlement.

Morin, he said, is “begging for cover” and the city is busy trying to cover its tracks.

Church-Dlugokenski is “emotionally distraught” about the demolition, said Keen.

No lawsuit has been filed over the demolition, said Keen, but one is pending.

Since the Fall Mountain Road house, Morin said Letourneau hasn’t done any other demolition for the city, but has done some boarding up work because, he said, “None of the other contractors were available.”

As the city’s building official, Morin signed Letourneau’s application to the state for a demolition license.

Letourneau told Morin and other contractors that he got the license, said Morin.

“I think he really believed he had a license,” said Morin. “I don’t know why it wasn’t granted.”

City has new procedures now

A month before hiring an unlicensed contractor to tear down a Fall Mountain home on an emergency basis, the city solicited bids from demolition companies interested in getting calls when the building office needed a structure torn down quickly.
The timing was unfortunate, though, because the bids were due on May 12, just after the city hired Dan Letourneau Builders to handle the Fall Mountain Road job.
By June, the City Council had chosen three city firms to handle the emergency work, turning down Letourneau’s bid along with a handful of others.
Purchasing Agent Roger Rousseau said the council established a one-year contract with the firms so that officials would call them on a case-by-case basis if a building had to come down unexpectedly.
He said officials opted to create the list, he said, because they knew that a vigorous new code enforcement effort might lead to a number of emergency demolitions. They wanted to be ready, he said.
The companies that were picked were checked to ensure they had the necessary licenses, Rousseau said.
Once the mistake with Letourneau Builders was recognized last summer, officials paid special attention to the issue.
“We took steps to ensure it won’t recur,” Mayor Art Ward said. By adding more checks and balances to the process, he said, there shouldn’t be any more mistakes.
This year, as the contract ended, the city decided to create a different policy.
Rousseau said that if the building official orders a building razed, the purchasing office will call companies in the business and get price quotes. Before accepting the lowest, he said, the contractor will be checked out to make sure it can do the job legally.
An emergency demolition would require the approval of the mayor and Board of Finance chairman, Rousseau said, as well as a report to the finance panel at its next meeting.
Rousseau said he’ll make sure everything’s done right.
“Everything has to be shown in accordance with all the appropriate qualifications,” Ward said.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at


Anonymous said...

Maybe Terryville can hire some one (licensed or not) to tear down Ms. Church's house there. She owed $100,000 in blight fines until the town council granted amnesty.

Anonymous said...

Hire Morin

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Rousseau screwed up. He's the city's purchasing agent. What other paperwork does he not check on? The city is building two schools. Will those have properly licensed contractors?

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when a community turns on its own for blight and "beautification." You have people ratting each other out destroying their homes before the owners even have a chance to defend themselves.

Anti-blight laws are such a violation of property rights it makes me sick.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's me, but didn't the idiot who owns the house admit that it was falling down and that there were dead and live racoons in the home? Obviously no one in their right mind would live in a place like that so I would agree with Mr. Morin. I'm sure they weren't living there.

As far as the comment of "we were fixing it up," how many times have I read that in the paper! Ridiculous! I'm sure they were just appeasing Mr. Morin by replacing a board here or changing a light bulb there all in the name of fixing up the house. They obviously had no desire to fix it up otherwise it wouldn't have been falling down in the first place.

The city did the right thing. Make these people realize that we are serious when we say "fix your property or else!!!!" I'm tired of broken down, filthy, dangerous buildings. Lord knows there are enough of them! Let's get tough with these people! Keep up the good work, Mr. Morin! AT least somebody is doing what he's getting paid to do!

Anonymous said...

And meanwhile Melanie Church is going to board and commission meetings every night and telling all the officials how the town should be run!!! LMAO

Anonymous said...

The draW administration strikes again!

Anonymous said...

Mayor Ward - spend more time keeping track of city issues instead of hanging out at sporty's.

NOT mine said...

“I was quite upset when I was informed about it,” Ward said Friday.

Well Artie ........ Taxpayers aren't exactly happy with you tearing down peoples homes with out COURT approval .

What can we expect when you have Pravda ( the press ) in you back pocket .

Anonymous said...

Au contraire 12:10, the taxpayers were actually quite pleased with the demolition of blighted, dangerous eye sores.

Anonymous said...

Isn't this the type of situation that causes us to have such high and unnecessary legal expenses?

Will they ever learn?

Anonymous said...

M. Church is laid off from Theis precision steel .Why is she on vacation she should be looking for work not collecting unemployment benifits while on vacation in florida according to her atty.The state should go after her for fraud.