HJ/EDHerald Journal, Nov. 21, 2005

Winsted wrestles with code violations at downtown building

By Ryan Gueningsman
Staff Writer

A number of ongoing code violation issues has led the City of Winsted to deem Sam Ulland’s building at 163 Main Avenue West unfit for human habitation.

The city executed an administrative search warrant, along with verbal consent from Ulland (aka Mohammed Shahidullah) to inspect the property with a licensed building inspector Sept. 1. Ulland was a veterinarian in Winsted in the 1980s.

At the time of the inspection, there was no running water in the building, and the only bathtub or shower in the apartment had the water piping disconnected, according to City Administrator Brent Mareck.

During the inspection, Ulland told officials he was in the process of redoing all of the plumbing work, but there is no record of Ulland obtaining the permits needed for the work.

Building inspector Rob Beckfeld also found problems with the gas lines in the basement of the building, several areas of ceiling that were unfinished, damage that appears to have come from water to the floors in the stairwell and second floor, along with exposed electrical wires from walls and ceilings.

Beckfeld also noted the west wall on the lower level of the porch was blown in, and that there is a large hole in the south side of the building. A downed tree has also caused damage to a fence, and lays on the property, as well as his neighbor’s, from a storm this summer.

Ulland told the council at Tuesday’s meeting that he has made arrangements with someone from the city who is going to cut up the tree and haul it away for firewood.

While Ulland has told the council on several different occasions he resides in the building, and uses the lower level as his office, the city believes him to have “abandoned” the building. During the inspection, it was also noted that a refrigerator with old medicine waste was found that causes an odor.

Ulland said at the meeting he attempted to mow the grass on the south side of the building, but was unable to do so due to shingles he said blew onto his property from the hardware store, following a storm.

“This is my city, and I’ll do the best I can,” Ulland told the council, noting that a storm came through and knocked the tree down, and that he has had personal issues that have prevented him from doing the needed work to the building.

Ulland had the consulting engineering firm of Becklin and Whitney of Cambridge inspect his building, and presented information from the firm that stated that while the building is untidy, it is safe and habitable.

The firm also stated the building, including the wood frame addition, is structurally sound, and that the building poses no hazard to the public. The finding also stated the apartment on the second floor has all necessary amenities and is habitable.

Because of the city inspector’s findings, the council adopted a resolution declaring the property to be hazardous, and issued an abatement order for the property. In doing this, Ulland will still own the property, but the city will be able to ensure the hazardous conditions be remedied. Ulland has 30 days to come up with a plan to get the conditions remidied. The council can determine the plan is sufficient, and possibly grant Ulland more time to make the improvements to the property, or it can enforce the abatement order through a court order.

The council also passed a resolution determining that some factors that make the property hazardous, also make the property unfit for human habitation, which Ulland has the right to appeal, according to city code.

Mareck said a hearing examiner will be hired to hear from the city, and from Ulland, and make a recommendation that the council can either approve or deny.

Other options the council discussed for the property were to do nothing, create a property maintenance agreement, or to initiate a process of eminent domain to acquire the property.


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