Water cutoff condemns residences

March 16, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Water cutoff condemns residences

Tenants in four Hagerstown houses were without water Monday because their landlord had not paid the water bills, the City of Hagerstown's code enforcement officer said.

Water to a fifth property was to have been cut off last week, but the tenant still had water on Monday, Marc David, city code enforcement officer, said.

Because the water has been cut off, the city has condemned the properties and the tenants will have to seek other living quarters, officials said.


The landlord, Charles Summers, of Middletown, Md., owes the city about $2,900 for water bills at 12 properties, according to the city's billing department.

Five of the 12 properties are occupied, David said.

The Charles Summers who is delinquent on his water bills is not the Charles Summers who is a Hagerstown City Police officer and director of the Washington County Narcotics Task Force, city officials said.

David said the occupied residences are at:

-- 129 W. Church St.

-- 131 W. Church St.

-- 29 W. Bethel St.

-- 914 Salem Ave.,

-- 55 Charles St.

Pat Dofflemyer said neighbors have been carrying water in buckets to her 131 W. Church St. home since last Thursday, where the water was shut off, so family members could bathe, cook and flush the toilet.

Dofflemyer, 41, who is almost seven months pregnant, lives there with her husband and two sons, ages 8 and 6.

Water to 55 Charles St. was thought to have been turned off late last week, but water was running from the tap on Monday, David said.

Summers, of 9136 Old Hagerstown Road, was fined $200 per occupied property, or $1,000 total, David said. He has 20 days to pay the fines or the city can request they be doubled and ask for a court hearing.

Reached at Charles Contracting Inc. on Monday, Summers said the tenants were responsible for paying the water bills.

Dofflemyer said Summers was supposed to pay the water bill.

Mike Heyser, the city's building inspector, said even if Summers had contracts with tenants stipulating they pay the water bills, the city code places responsibility for payment on property owners.

"They owe me four months rent and I'm not paying jack until I get some rent," Summers said. "I don't have the heart to throw somebody out in the winter time."

Robin Hunter, who arrived at her 914 Salem Ave. home Monday to find water service had been cut off and the property condemned, said she has paid her rent. Hunter said she does not get a water bill because it is in Summers' name.

While homes are not supposed to be occupied after water service has been cut off, David said he would give residents some time to move and get assistance from local agencies.

Even before their water was cut off, the Dofflemyers were planning to move this weekend to Burner Avenue.

The city has not been able to reach Summers, David said.

Certified mail sent to Summers has been returned, David said.

He said he posted notices Monday at all five properties and on Summers' front door stating the five properties had been deemed unfit for occupancy.

Summers is due in Washington County District Court on April 1 on seven cases related to a vacant building at 308 S. Locust St., according to court records.

Last October and November, David filed six civil citations against Summers alleging he failed to secure the vacant building and one citation alleging he failed to exterminate the building.

Summers could be fined $1,250 for those citations, according to court records.

Windows and doors of vacant buildings need to be locked to prevent ransacking and fires from being set, David said.

The building was secured in November, but the city is pursuing the court hearing, David said. "He can go in front of a judge and explain why it took so long to get secured," he said.

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