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Derby building’s fate may be determined Wednesday

March 18, 2019 GMT

DERBY-A lawyer who is an owner in a downtown building which the city believes is in danger of collapsing has until noon Wednesday to submit a structural engineering report.

Michael Hillis, who is a principal in Derby Shores, LLC, told Hearst Connecticut Media that he will have a structural engineer inspect the site and report back to the city. However, Hillis said he does not expect any issues since Derby Shores spent about $250,000 several years on a number of repairs the city ordered.

Meanwhile, the city has closed the sidewalk around the four-story, 195 Main Street building that rests on the corner of Minera and Main Streets. They also stationed a fire watch around the site 24/7 until a decision is made on its safety.

“The property owner has advised us they hired a structural engineer to inspect the interior,” said Andrew Baklik, chief of staff to Mayor Richard Dziekan. “They have said they will have that report to us by noon Wednesday.”

In the meantime Baklik said the sidewalk surrounding the building has been closed to pedestrian traffic. Additionally a firewatch is on duty outside the building 24/7 to prevent anyone from entering or being injured by falling debris.

Hillis blamed the falling debris on a damaged roof. He told Hearst Connecticut Media that Derby Shores has a pending lawsuit against MESA Underwriters Specialty Insurance Co.of New Jersey.

The suit filed Feb. 9, 2015 and pending in Milford Superior Court alleges that the insurer failed to pay for damage to the roof sustained during the blizzard that began Feb. 9, 2013. The suit claims heavy snow and ice along with strong winds caused damage to the roof which resulted in water leaking inside.

MESA has hired a lawyer and denies the claim. No court dates have been scheduled.

Baklik said Vincent Marino, the city’s corporation counsel, has been in contact with Hillis and urged him to take the necessary steps to prevent anything else falling from the building

Additionally the city’s Water Pollution Control Authority has filed a foreclosure suit against Derby Shores, LLC for failing to pay sewer use taxes totaling $4,868.52 for the fiscal years ending July 1, 2015, 2016 and 2017 as well as the accruing interests on those charges.

That suit also claims Derby Shores took out a $600,000 mortgage on the building in 2006 that has been assigned to Hayden Asset VIII in East Hartford. It further claims New England Yankee Construction of Wallingford has a $12,861.58 judgment lien against Derby Shores.

No court dates have been set on the lawsuit which also is pending in Milford Superior Court. Hillis said Derby Shores hired a lawyer who is in the process of “wrapping (it) up.”

Meanwhile three of the four remaining buildings on the south side of Main Street have been demolished. The only one still standing rests at the intersection of Main and Factory Street. A major development is planned for the former Housatonic Lumber site on Factory Street. Site plans are expected to be accepted by the Planning and Zoning Commission during their March 26 meeting..

The demolition is part of the state’s plan to widen Main Street, also known as Route 34, into a four lane highway beginning next year.