Citing ‘life safety issues,’ old New Castle schoolhouse given notice of building closure
The old downtown New Castle schoolhouse — or what some locals refer to as “Rosie’s building,” since it became a privately owned apartment building — has received a notice of building closure from the town’s municipal court.
Dated April 11, the notice states that the premises at 151 Main St. will be closed to all entry by any person and must be vacated by all occupants and residents by noon Friday.
“This isn’t a condemnation or anything like that of the building,” New Castle Town Administrator David Reynolds said. “This is an order by the judge that basically says, as it stands right now, you violated last year’s court order to make these repairs and to provide a safe environment for your residents.”
Rosie Ferrin, who owns the historic building, utilizes its upstairs for rental units.
According to Reynolds, last February Ferrin appeared in court for health and safety violations present on the property and agreed to make the necessary repairs.
However, following an inspection done earlier this year, Ferrin was found to be out of compliance with that previous court order.
“The judge heard evidence and found it to be life-safety issues that were ongoing that she hasn’t complied with for the last 14 months. As a result, the judge ordered the building emptied until such time that [Ferrin] can make the repairs,” Reynolds said.
Those “life-safety issues” included alleged violations such as smoke detectors missing, alarm systems not being in place, no heating system, electrical issues, blocked egress windows, as well as units being utilized by residents without the proper permitting in place.
According to Reynolds, Ferrin has five to six permitted dwelling units where the violations were found.
Ferrin, who in addition to owning the building also lives in one of its dwellings, disputed the allegations saying instead that she was in compliance.
“I love the town of New Castle and its people,” Ferrin said. “I am just helping the forgotten, working people.”
Previously, Ferrin worked as a teacher for 10 years when the building still housed a school and later purchased it in the 1990s.
Reynolds said that although the building will shut down to occupants, contractors could still access it to make the necessary repairs if Ferrin chooses to contract the work out.
“The ball is totally in Rosie’s court as far as getting the building fixed, and essentially she has had the last 14 months to do this, and to keep it in a state of repair that would allow for safe occupancy,” Reynolds said.
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According to the New Castle Police Department’s official Facebook page, a “string of arson-related fires” have occurred in the town recently. Law enforcement believes “the fires to all be related.”