MALONE — Roger Sanspree is tired of living next door to an abandoned building full of rodents and other wildlife.
And the Malone Village Board is struggling to find a solution for fed-up owners like him that won’t bankrupt or endanger the community.
Officials were given a list of 14 unsafe structures identified by Charles Robert, the part-time code-enforcement officer in the village, including 25 College Ave., next door to Sanspree. The others are 11 Spruce St., 134 William St., 370-374 West Main St., 43 Duane St., 44 Branch St., 523 East Main St., 51 Front St., 63 Front St., 73 Rennie St., 80 Webster St., 96 Catherine St., 395 West Main St. and 38 College Ave.
Trustees say there isn’t a lot they can do because some older structures may contain asbestos, which requires special removal and disposal of the material in line with state and federal regulations.
That makes it an expensive problem and not one confined to Malone.
It’s a national problem, and Congressman Bill Owens (D-Plattsburgh) says he hopes to help municipalities get rid of these kinds of eyesores and dangerous sites with as little cost as possible. A bill he introduced in Congress in December called the Common Sense Waiver Act of 2011 would allow the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to grant waivers to its asbestos-emission standards in the demolition, removal or renovation of buildings that contain asbestos if that building is deemed structurally unstable and on the verge of collapse or has been condemned.
Owens says it’s a “common-sense approach to resolving issues between EPA and local government and provides a reasonable way to handle potentially contaminated properties.”
Owens spokesman Sean Magers said the bill remains under consideration with the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
“This is a public-safety issue,” said Malone Mayor Todd LePine, adding that the village can only assume there is asbestos in some of the structures because some have deteriorated so much that it is too dangerous for Robert or anyone else to go inside and make an assessment.
Another problem is some that of the property owners live elsewhere, including the owners of the building next to Sanspree. Franklin County Real Property Tax Service records list the owner of 25 College Ave. as ABC Consultant Co. of Phoenix, Ariz., which bought the property in 2007.
Sanspree said the right side of the house burned several years ago, but other tenants continued to live in the half situated closest to his property until about 2007.
“I wish the village could just come in here and tear it down and bury it all right there,” he said. “There are all kinds of animals in there now — raccoons, skunks.
“And I don’t look in the windows, but I think the basement is full of water half the time, so it’s nothing but a hazard,” Sanspree said.
“It’s unsafe. We’ve got a bunch of grandkids, and we don’t like them to come over or come after dark because we don’t know what’s coming out of there.”
He said he offered to buy the property if the village would tear down the building and cart the debris away, “but they wouldn’t go for it,” Sanspree said.
“I wish they’d just tear it down.”
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