Derelict car shop out of time
Demolition slated for later this month
Known as Duteau's Garage, the failing structure at 50 Commercial St. has been vacant for nearly two decades, has partially collapsed and pieces of it have been falling to the pavement, prompting the town to install perimeter fencing, according to Donna Cesan, interim town administrator.
On top of that, owner Richard "Rusty" Ransford has not paid taxes for several years and owes $101,600 to the town.
More than a decade of neglect has left the building an icon of local blight, and town officials have been seeking a resolution from Ransford.
But now the town has finally worked through all the legal obstacles to be able to bring the building down, Cesan said.
Last month the project was finally put out to bid, and town officials chose to employ American Environmental, based in Holyoke, which bid $66,186 for the demolition and asbestos abatement.
Ransford did not return messages seeking comment.
Through the last couple of centuries, the site has housed a black smith and a painting and woodworking shop. The current structure was built circa 1921 as one of the area's first full-service Amoco Gasoline stations. The building and property remained an Amoco Gasoline Station and auto body repair shop until the early 1970s. It was then used as an auto dealer and then again as an automotive repair shop.
Cesan said it has been vacant for roughly 17 years.
"Now it's a hazard to passers-by because of debris falling off the front fascade," she said, adding that the owner is "not responsive" to town requests for relief from the decaying structure.
"It is structurally unsound, contaminated with asbestos and lead paint, and there are other unknown hazards," Cesan said. "The problem is, we can't test it for contaminants because it is unsafe for entry. We can't test it until it has been demolished."
The state requires a number of steps before allowing a structure to be taken down without the permission of the owner, steps the town has been completing over the past few years without response from the owner.
And there have been complaints from neighbors regarding its impact on surrounding property values and the dangers to passersby.
"The public has to understand that we have to follow a certain set of protocols designed to protect the rights of property owners,"Cesan said.
The cost of the demolition will be attached to the property as a lien that must be paid before the property is sold, along with back taxes.
According to Adams Treasurer Kelly Rice, Ranford owes $101,600 in back taxes on the property. The parcel and building are assessed by the town at $127,400.
Scott Stafford can be reached at email@example.com or 413-629-4517.
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