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GROTON — In the wake of a devastating fire last week that destroyed the town’s most historic structure, the Board of Health voted to, in effect, support a decision by health Agent Ira Grossman to condemn two buildings at the site that had not been damaged by the flames.

According to Grossman, the two buildings are located behind the Old Groton Inn site and are not directly attached to the main building.

The Old Groton Inn was destroyed by a fire whose origin is yet to be determined. The fire totaled the historic structure leaving a blackened shell overlooking Main Street in the heart of the downtown district.

A number of area fire companies in addition to Groton’s Fire Department fought the blaze. They were able to limit damage to the Inn and preserve other buildings on the property including what the Board of Health defined as “buildings one and two.”

Although the two buildings escaped damage, Grossman was called in by town officials after it was noticed that the structures had a number of pre-existing building code violations.

When Grossman completed his inspection, he confirmed that an exterior stairway and entry door were in violation and that the existence of lead paint was in violation of state law.

For those reasons, he ordered the buildings condemned, preventing the return of tenants to any of the eight apartments units including one that had included a child under 6 years old.

It was the presence of the child that triggered the lead paint violation, potentially the single most expensive item that will need addressing by the owner.

In addition to the code violations, Grossman reported that water and electricity had been cut off from the two buildings and that reconnecting them could trigger other violations.

Also disconnected was municipal sewer service, according to water superintendent Thomas Orcutt.

Orcutt added that it would cost property owner George Pergantis $3,000 to reconnect with the town’s water system.

But so long as Pergantis is unable to bring his tenants back, his ability to complete the work necessary to lift the condemnation order is limited.

“I’m broke,” Pergantis told the board Monday night. “I need help.”

Condemning a property, said Grossman, involves declaring it unfit for human habitation, vacating the premises and securing them against re-entry.

According to Grossman, all eight apartments in the two buildings he condemned were occupied at the time of the fire. One tenant has already been arrested for attempting to return to his home.

Indicating a reluctance to place Pergantis in a difficult position, members of the board nevertheless supported Grossman in the face of obvious problems with the two buildings. In a unanimous vote, the board decided to authorize Grossman to lift his condemnation order only after water and electricity are re-established, the exterior stairway and doorway are brought up to code, and lead paint is removed.

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