A former state legislator from South Portland has until the beginning of July to fix the sewer line at his home before he could be fined for creating a public nuisance.
The South Portland City Council declared Christopher Muse’s house a nuisance on Monday, giving him 15 days to solve the problems on the property at 35 Mildred St.
Besides fixing the broken pipe, which has caused sewage to collect in the basement, he must replace cellar windows and take the door off a refrigerator in the yard, said City Manager Jim Gailey.
Muse said Thursday that the sewer line repair would cost at least $10,000, which he can’t afford.
The city first found that the house’s sewer line was broken in early May and notified Muse that he had four days to come up with a plan to fix it, said Code Enforcement Officer Pat Doucette. He never responded, she said.
In response, Doucette posted notices May 12 on the entries to the three apartments in the house, declaring them “unfit for human habitation” and prohibiting anyone from living there.
She said the tenants had moved out by then, but neighbors reported that Muse stayed in the house.
He was issued a summons for violating the code and is scheduled to appear in court July 9.
Neighbors also reported that Muse had been pumping sewage that had collected in the home out into his driveway through a basement window. They filed a nuisance complaint with the city.
The council held a public hearing on that complaint Monday, before declaring the house a nuisance – a code violation that carries a maximum fine of $2,500 per day.
Muse said Thursday that he has been staying with friends and has put the house up for sale.
He said his tenants in the building, which he has owned for almost 30 years, were his only source of income.
He said he hoped that the city would help him with the cost of fixing the sewer line because he believes it was damaged by roots from trees that the city planted in front of his home, but he’s not holding out hope for that.
“I’ve done a lot of work for the city of South Portland, and now I’m in a position where I kind of need a hand, and all I’m getting is a sharp stick in the eye,” said Muse, who served in the House of Representatives from 1997 to 2002.
Gailey said he doesn’t believe the roots that broke the sewer line came from city-planted trees, and said Muse has never made that claim to him.
Muse, he said, “is grasping at straws on this item.”