December 8, 2012

Maine family faces loss of home, which town calls unsafe

The town of China is taking court action to tear down a trailer and two outbuildings that it says are unsafe.

By SUSAN M. COVER Kennebec Journal

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Judith Farris, left, and her daughter, Becky Ratcliff, may be moving from their China home, if the town carries an order to raze the trailer and outbuilding.

Andy Molloy / Staff Photographer

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Becky Ratcliff stays in an outbuilding she describes as a "bedroom" on the China property of her mother, Judith Farris, in China. The town may raze the property, forcing the couple to relocate.

Andy Molloy / Staff Photographer

Farris said she has five cats and a dog in the trailer, and Ratcliff keeps three cats and a dog in the shed, which has cable and Internet.

Farris also has a pet skunk in the garage, which the town describes in court documents as "dilapidated and deteriorating."

Pierz said he's been working with Farris and her family for months to try to address the problem. In August, the China selectmen voted to order them to move by mid-October.

When they failed to do that, the town filed a Superior Court complaint Nov. 13.

A court hearing was held Nov. 26, but neither Farris nor anyone representing her interests attended. Farris said the town did not notify her in advance of the hearing, and the court on Friday asked her to file something in writing expressing that concern by Dec. 14.

Complicating the situation is an unusual stipulation in the deed that prevents Farris from selling the property.

Farris inherited 51 percent of the property in 1998 after the death of her partner, Donald N. Thibodeau. In his will, Thibodeau described Farris as "my dearest friend and faithful companion, Judith Farris; who was always there to help me when I needed her." Thibodeau gave 49 percent of the property to his son, Stephen R. Thibodeau, and stipulated that the "property cannot be sold to anyone, or to each other and must stay in joint ownership until the death of one of the owners."

Thibodeau does not live on the property and town efforts to contact him have been unsuccessful. Efforts by the Kennebec Journal to contact Thibodeau, who is listed as living in Skowhegan on court documents, were also unsuccessful.

The town's contact with Farris dates back to at least June 2004, when Pierz wrote her a letter informing her that her property fit the description of a junkyard and automobile graveyard as outlined in state law. It ordered her to clean up the property and provided her with information about a town "open transfer station day" where she could dispose of some of the materials.

In May 2005, Pierz sent her another letter saying her property was subject to the state's miscellaneous nuisance law, litter control law and possibly the junkyard and automobile graveyard statute.

In more recent times, Pierz said he has sent out plumbers and electricians to the property to try to make it livable.

But now, it no longer meets health and safety requirements, he said.

"The building is beyond repair," he said. "It just can't go on anymore." 

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Susan Cover can be contacted 621-5643 or at:


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