The town of Milton is moving to have Armand Brisson found in contempt of a court order that gave him 60 days to do remedial work at his condemned Main Street building.
In a motion filed September 6, the town’s attorney, Bob Fletcher, wrote Brisson largely failed to meet the demands of a Chittenden County Superior Court – Civil Division order issued in June.
The order required Brisson to:
- remove fallen brick and install a temporary framework immediately,
- rebuild the missing brick within 60 days,
- erect a tarp over the west wall and
- contract with a structural engineer to supervise the work.
“His lack of progress and his leisurely pace, as the state health board put it, gives us concern, because we haven’t been advised of the overall structural integrity of the building, and that’s been the question from the beginning,” Town Manager Brian Palaia said.
This is the latest move in the town’s litigation against Brisson. The case began after a resident alerted Milton police to fallen bricks at the site. Deputy Health Officer Roger Dickinson condemned the building in a temporary health order that was later upheld by the Milton Board of Health in May. When Brisson didn’t comply with that order, the town sued.
Brisson recently appealed the health order to the Vermont Board of Health, which affirmed the town’s “nearly uncontested evidence” that the building poses a significant health risk, the July 30 ruling reads.
That order gave Brisson 24 hours to begin work at the site and to provide a contract with an engineer; if those steps weren’t taken, it says, the building could be demolished at Brisson’s expense.
In its new motion, the town included four undated photos showing Brisson’s work thus far: Brisson’s hired hand, Paul Visi, removed a section of brick from the first layer of the three-course wall and installed an angle iron header, braced by wood, on the failing west wall.
An affidavit by town Health Officer Taylor Newton says no tarps are on site. Newton has checked the building every two to three days since the loose bricks were discovered May 6, he wrote.
The town doesn’t believe Visi – who is not a structural engineer – ameliorated the public health risk. The historic building sits feet from Route 7, so the Vermont Agency of Transportation installed Jersey barriers around its perimeter to contain falling bricks.
The barriers will interfere with winter plowing operations, as they come right up to the traveled portion of the road, leaving no room for snow and ice, Palaia said.
Brisson said the work he’s done so far has stabilized the building.
Palaia said the town can’t be sure of that until they get full access to the building, which was recommended both by the town’s hired engineer, Cliff Collins, and Robert Neeld, who was retained by the Preservation Trust of Vermont on Brisson’s behalf.
Neeld, president of Burlington-based Engineering Ventures, also wrote in a letter that the amount of material on the second story could be overloading the floor.
Brisson has refused the town’s request to access the building’s interior several times, including last month in a meeting with Newton and Planning Director Katherine Sonnick. The town followed up with a letter, to which Brisson didn’t respond, Palaia said.
Brisson said letting the town inside would give it control over the building. He said the town intends to demolish it, and he won’t let that happen. By asking for inside access, the town is reaching too far, Brisson said.
“It’s beyond what needs to be examined,” he said. “It’s only the exterior, and that is something that will be addressed.”
The town manager hopes Brisson complies with the court order and noted he doesn’t want to resort to demolishing the building. Asked if Brisson doesn’t have enough money for the repairs – a point Brisson raised in court – Palaia said Brisson may not have a regular income, but he does have assets, including three buildings for which he’s paid taxes.
Brisson confirmed the brickwork hasn’t been done because he’s had other expenses. Asked why he didn’t purchase the tarp, Brisson said, “Any money for the tarp is just money diverted.”
Brisson hopes to start putting up new bricks this week. He’s unsure how he’ll respond to the motion, because unlike the town, he doesn’t have a lawyer or “deep pockets,” he said.
The town’s motion also asks Brisson to pay the town’s legal fees for pursuing this case and any other relief the court sees fit.
The court had not set a hearing date by press time.