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Abandoned Manchester building remains without water

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 03. 2014 9:53PM
Tenant Rick Bernier works in the basement of 405 Manchester St. replacing copper pipes that were stolen after the water to the apartment building was shut off last month. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — A resident of an apartment house abandoned by its owner said it will be a few more days before he can replace stolen copper piping, after his do-it-yourself effort to restore water to the building stalled Friday.

Rick Bernier said he ran into difficulties and planned to have a friend who is a licensed plumber help him Friday night or today at 405 Manchester St.

A roofer and painter by trade, Bernier said the job shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours once he gets help from a skilled plumber.

“I try to look at the bright side. The glass is half full, not half empty today,” Bernier said.

Bernier and tenants in four other apartments remain in the 15-unit building, after the landlord abandoned the structure over the summer and the Manchester Water Works cut off water last month for non-payment.

Last week, Bernier and tenants worked out a repayment deal with Water Works, only to find out that copper piping had been stolen from the building. None of the tenants are paying rent, so they have pitched in to at least restore water service.

Bernier said materials will cost about $400. He said he also needs to find parts, one that was not available at Home Depot, given the age of the structure.

Meanwhile, a city lawyer said he does not anticipate any legal moves by the city to close up the building.

Assistant City Solicitor Peter Chiesa said he has conferred with landlord Paul Schaefer’s bankruptcy attorney, William Gannon, about the building. It remains in the name of one of Schaefer’s companies, and city officials have said previously that they want Schaefer to make necessary repairs. At other times, they want the building secured.

“The (bankruptcy) lawyer isn’t authorized to take any steps on Mr. Schaefer’s behalf to secure the building or cure whatever violations may exist,” Chiesa said.

Unless the bank initiates some action, there is nothing the city can do to improve the property, Chiesa said.

Bernier said five tenants live in the building. Late Friday morning, a Manchester schools truant officer visited an apartment, hoping to find some children who were not in school that day.

Bernier, who hopes to get help from New Hampshire Legal Assistance, wants to stay, despite the loose windows and sagging ceiling. The building, he said, has potential, but whoever buys it will need money for repairs.

He thinks he’ll be able to remain for at least 90 days.

“What do you do, where do you go? I don’t sleep too good at night thinking: Where are you going to go?” he said.

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