The Bowdoin Orient

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5 days ago

Crack House in violation of 8 building safety codes

Brunswick Fire Department (BFD) and Brunswick Police Department (BPD) found eight fire and life-safety violations during a January 19 inspection of -the off-campus residence at 83 ½ Harpswell Road, colloquially known as Crack House, forcing the six residents to cease use of the basement. Two residents may also need to move out of the house. 

According to BPD Captain Mark Waltz, the landlord of the property has until April 3 to supply Deputy Chief Emerson with a long-term correction plan.  If accepted, the landlord will have until May 1 to implement the plan.

“For the long term, the landlord will have to bring the building up to compliance—so, to fix all the facility-based or structural-based deficiencies that may be here,” Emerson said. “If they want to continue using the basement, he’s going to have to do some exit work. [The building also has] to be brought into compliance with the definition of a one-to-two family dwelling, which means it’ll have to be limited to four people.”

BFD and BPD performed their inspection of the house following a complaint from the Brunswick town office. The investigation revealed eight fire and life-safety violations, many of which were similar to the nine violations discovered in a 2008 investigation of the house. 

The violations included: too many people living in the house, no working smoke detectors, impermissible padlocks on bedroom and bathroom doors, basement non-storage usage without a secondary exit, an upstairs bedroom lacking a secondary means of escape, combustible material too close to heating appliances as well as electrical deficiencies, inadequate fire separation between the garage and the house and deficiencies with the oil-burning water heater.

“The immediate fixes…were the clearing of those exits, the replacement of smoke detection that had been removed, the vacating of the illegal bedroom, the removal of impermissible locks, and no further occupancy of the basement for anything other than storage purposes,” said Deputy Chief Jeffrey Emerson of the BFD, who was in charge of the investigation, in a phone interview with the Orient.

Six seniors currently reside in the house. The landlord and the town will determine whether two students must move out of the house or whether the house can become classified differently to allow for more residents, which would require improvements like a fire alarm and a sprinkler system.

“[Our landlord’s] very supportive of us,” said a resident of the house, who asked not to be identified. “He wants the house to continue to be a student housing option.”

Associate Director of Housing Operations Lisa Rendall has offered the residents of Crack on-campus housing. So far, only one resident has reached out to Rendall to discuss this offer. The Office of Residential Life (ResLife) is usually not involved with off-campus housing, but in the past it has offered on-campus housing when neecessary, such as when a furnace broke in an off-campus house a few years ago.

Like ResLife, Bowdoin’s Office of Safety and Security has served as an outlet for off-campus housing situations, involving themselves as necessary. In this particular situation, Safety and Security was made aware of the violations yet had no direct involvement.

“It’s a town issue,” said Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols. “I haven’t got any direct involvement in this matter between the town and the landlord.”

As such, no security report was issued on the investigation, yet word of Crack’s potential shutdown spread rapidly as a result of its prominent place in the College’s social scene.

“Throughout my four years here, Crack has been a really important part of the social life of this college… [It is] an environment for those people that want to have a social life outside of the normal social house experience,” the house resident said.

Crack House made headlines in several local newspapers after house residents threw a party in November at which 14 students wore Native American costumes and were disciplined by the College. 

The Crack House resident thinks that the house is under a lot of scrutiny and that there may be a connection between the events that have taken place this year. 

For now, Crack’s party scene is on hold. 

“Going forward, we won’t be having any more parties,” the house resident said.  “I can’t speak to what happens with the residents next year.”

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