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PI code enforcement office condemns home where alleged drug use took place

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Presque Isle’s code enforcement office has officially condemned a home located on 36 Oak St. that has caused concern from residents recently over alleged drug-related incidents taking place there.

Presque Isle code enforcement officer George Howe confirmed during the Feb. 6 city council meeting that his office condemned the residence on Jan. 25 after public comments from several residents of Oak and State Streets who voiced their worries over alleged drug dealings and potentially violent situations inside or near the property.

Howe explained that typically his office gives homeowners of condemned properties 30 days to respond and take on the commitment of bringing the property up to the city’s code standards. Last year the homeowner, Dustin McGillan, was arrested on drug-related charges and is currently serving time in prison. Howe’s attempts to reach McGillan’s attorney have been unsuccessful because the attorney is currently in Alaska.

“In fairness to homeowners we allow 30 days for them to correct the situation. If we don’t hear from them after that period, then we give them the options of repairing the home or have it torn down,” Howe said. “As long as they have a plan of action we’re willing to work with the owner and give them another 30 days to remedy the situation.”

Howe said that the 36 Oak St. property has suffered extensive structural damage inside, the driveway has yet to be plowed this winter and that he and co-workers found many large piles of garbage throughout the home. He has posted a sign on the front entrance warning area residents to not enter the building because the home has been “condemned as dangerous and unsafe.”

Recently, Howe spoke with an individual who is interested in purchasing the property, but without legal consent no one other than the city of Presque Isle can become responsible for repairing or demolishing the home.

“The building cannot be sold when there are code violations unless there’s a person who’s willing to take on the responsibility of bringing it up to code,” Howe said.

The 36 Oak St. property received public attention during the Jan. 2 city council meeting during which Jonathan and Deanne Guerrette, who live nearby on State Street, told councilors about an alleged incident that they said occurred at their home. The couple claimed that a man they believed might have been high on crack cocaine had come to their front door while yelling for help. Jonathan Guerrette had pointed a shotgun at the man, he said, after feeling the need to protect his family in case the man broke into their home.

The City of Presque Isle’s code enforcement office has condemned a home on 36 Oak St. for being “dangerous and unsafe” for people to enter in relation to concerns about recent alleged drug activities. (Courtesy of City of Presque Isle)

The Presque Isle Police Department later brought the man to Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital for examination, but did not arrest or charge him with any crime in connection to the alleged incident.

But several weeks later on Friday, Jan. 18, officials from the PIPD, the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office, Van Buren Police Department K-9 Unit and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency carried out a search warrant in which officers arrested two individuals they believed to be theft suspects as well as another individual who was in possession of heroin and had four unrelated arrest warrants.

Presque Isle Police Chief Laurie Kelley previously told councilors that her department had been keeping a close eye on 36 Oak St. due to suspicions that acquaintances of McGillan were still using the home for drug dealings even though there was no running water or operational toilet facilities. In May 2018 police also investigated an alleged shooting at the home. A man suspected in that shooting remains in jail pending a resolution of that case.

During Wednesday night’s meeting, Jonathan Guerrette thanked Howe and the city council for listening to him and his wife’s story and for doing everything in their power to combat the issues brought about by drug use in Aroostook County. He said he was relieved to find out that the 36 Oak St. property had been condemned and encouraged councilors to continue looking for ways to address problems from similar properties in the city.

“It solves part of the problem,” Jonathan Guerrette said. “But we still live next door and it’s still a former drug house that is worth nothing and could bring down property values. I think there are discussions that need to keep going so that the problem doesn’t get worse.”

He also praised the city and state offices who worked together to see that there were legal consequences for the alleged drug-related incidents happening near Oak and State Streets.

“This is an example of the system working,” Jonathan Guerrette said.

City councilor Kevin Freeman thanked Jonathan Guerrette for sharing his comments and for doing his part in making the council aware of drug-related issues in the city.

“If you hadn’t come forward we never would have known what had happened,” said Freeman, about the alleged incident at the Guerrette home. “Hopefully you and your family will be able to sleep with more ease at night. We’re always glad to hear comments from anyone who has concerns or something to share.”

In other business, the city council voted to elect Freeman as the deputy council chair. Mike Chasse was elected council chair during the Jan. 2 meeting, but councilors had decided to table the vote for deputy chair because not all councilors were present at the time.

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