Residents at a special New Hartford town meeting at Town Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 15. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.
Residents at a special New Hartford town meeting at Town Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 15. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

NEW HARTFORD — At a special town meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 15 at Town Hall, residents approved the town spending $63,285 for expenses relating to the New Hartford House fire.
The fire occurred on Aug. 10 and destroyed the New Hartford house, the historic building that was built in 1850 and was located in the center of town on Main Street.
The building included 14 residential units and six businesses, with 21 residents living in the building at the time of the fire, who were all displaced.
Originally, as per the motion listed on the special town meeting notice, the town’s Board of Finance requested that residents approve $225,000 for expenses related to the demolition, removal of debris, and site restoration.
First Selectman Daniel Jerram called the recommended expense a “worst-case scenario” for the town just in case of any unforeseen expenses related to the clean-up for the site.
“We all know that the front porches of the building stood only about three feet off of the highway, and the property was deemed to be unsafe,” Jerram told the room of over 40 residents at the meeting. “The owner of the property [Dhaval Patel, who owned the building under DHA Properties] had no experience in demolition and he asked for our help. To make sure there was no loss of life or issues, we intervened, which is allowed by state statute, to take the building down as quickly as we could, once the fire investigators were completed for onsite work.”
As listed on a spreadsheet Jerram provided at the meeting, the total cost of knocking the building down, removing hazardous material, and stabilizing the site is $167,600, with $160,600 paid for by Patel’s insurance company.
The demolition costs for public utilities to the building, including public sewer and water, are $8,285, with Patel’s insurance company not covering the costs.
Jerram reported that the town has so far spent $11,317.74 on hotel rooms for tenants displaced by the fire.
As part of the funding request, the Board of Finance requested a total of $48,000 maximum to pay for tenant relocation expenses.
He said that tenants from two of the nine units have found permanent housing, but the others were still looking.
“The state statute is clear [under the state’s Uniform Relocation Act] that if tenants are evicted for code,” Jerram said. “They may have some level of [renter’s insurance] coverage. If that coverage expires, there’s still a $4,000 liability to the owner and/or the town.”
After some discussion, the motion to spend $225,000, which was advised by the Board of Finance as the “worst-case scenario,” was amended to $63,285, which is the total current amount estimated of the outstanding balance between the demolition of the building, public utilities, and tenant relocation expenses.
The motion passed, unanimously, with none of the residents present at the meeting voting against it.
Jerram told the audience that the funds expended by the town would be reimbursed by Patel.
He added that, if any expenses were not reimbursed by Patel, the town would place a lien on the property for the unreimbursed expenses.
At the beginning of the meeting, at the behest of meeting moderator and Selectman Alesia Kennerson, residents gave a round of applause to the firefighters and emergency services personnel who battled the fire.
“[Fire Department Chief] Mark Worsman and [Department Captain] Robert Goodskey were one of the first on the scene of the fire,” Jerram said. “If they had not taken the actions that they did, this meeting could have been held in a different scenario. We could have been talking about the loss of life. We do remember the fallen firefighter, Colin McFadden from Burlington, who lost his life. But still, this is the risk that they take to help their neighbors in small towns and other towns around them. A lot of people chip in to help others around here.”
As for any potential plan to rebuild the property, Jerram told the audience that they would be meeting with Patel next week to discuss future plans and the possibility of a “new” New Hartford House.