An official “dangerous building” sign remains on the Family Dollar store, along with an unofficial “Do Not Enter” sign. The chain store has been closed because of a rat infestation. The chain has a history of rodent infestations. Robert Lowell / American Journal

A city inspection of the Family Dollar in Westbrook last month found live rats, dead and rotting rats and other health hazards rife at the downtown store.

“Conditions observed during the inspection of Friday the 3rd of March included live rodents, dead rodents in various states of decay, rodent feces and urine, evidence of gnawing, nesting and rodent odors throughout the facility and products stored in conditions that did not protect against contamination,” Michael Corey, city fire and electrical inspector, wrote in a March 10 email to city officials and Family Dollar district manager Jen Lavigne.

The email, along with others about the situation at the store, was obtained by the American Journal through a Freedom of Access Act request to the city, which had previously disclosed few details about why the store was shuttered. Planning and Code Enforcement Director Jennie Franceschi confirmed Wednesday that the rodents were rats.

The store at 880 Main St. closed on its own in February, but the city officially shut it down following the March 3 inspection, posting it as a dangerous building with no trespassing allowed. The inspection came after a contractor at the parking garage under construction next door contacted the city.

“Just thought I’d pass along that the parking garage contractor mentioned that Family Dollar has had an informal ‘closed to public’ sign for several days. (The premise was ‘inventory,’ but there is a feeling it is more than that.) Not sure if anyone was aware but wanted to pass this along,” Franceschi wrote in a Feb. 21 email to Linda Gain, office coordinator for  planning and code enforcement, and several other city hall employees.

“An inspection of the premise was conducted after there was knowledge of the store being closed voluntarily by the business owner. The inspections yielded evidence of rodents and unhealthful conditions which generated the formal posting by the city,” Franceschi told the American Journal.


In his email, Corey wrote, “There are numerous hazards associated with rodents, including the potential presence of salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in infants, young children, frail or elderly people and women who are pregnant.”

The rodent infestation is confined to Family Dollar, according to Franceschi, and the cleanup at the store, which carries a variety of low-cost household goods such as food items, toys, clothing and personal products, is continuing.

“They are working on finishing the cleaning, minor construction work to address access holes created by the rodents, and will be scheduling their air quality test shortly,” Franceschi said. “If all goes well with the tests, the State Agriculture inspection would then occur to then allow restocking efforts to move forward.”

According to emails, firms were hired for the rat remediation, including clearing out fixtures, trash and construction debris in the basement; making repairs in the basement and store; and cleaning and sanitizing air conditioning units and duct work.

Workers seen wearing protective suits have been at the store and a large trash container has been placed outside.

A reopening date is dependent on “achieving” the testing standards and passing inspections, but things are looking positive, she said.


Lavigne, the Family Dollar district manager, did not return a voicemail message for comment on this story. Kevin Straight of Family Dollar property management did not respond to an email request and Mery Simonds, the Westbrook store manager, did not respond to a message via Facebook.

Family Dollar stores in Nevada, California, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania and New York have been forced to shut down in recent years because of rodent infestations, according to CNN.

Last year, after a large infestation at a Family Dollar distribution facility in Arkansas, the company recalled food, cosmetics and other items sent out from that facility and temporarily shut down more than 400 stores, the New York Times reported.

The Family Dollar chain is owned by Dollar Tree.

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