It's a massive menace of a former mall that sits in two counties, causing headaches for officials in two municipalities. The former Charles Town Shopping Complex has become a target for squatters.
"There is evidence of squatting within the structure. We found basically a living room set up with a chair and other items," said Utica Fire Chief, Scott Ingersoll. "My worst fear right now is a firefighter injury. Right now, I don't want to put my firefighters in undue harm just because there's somebody going to set fires in an abandoned structure."
There was a suspicious fire in the building June 18, and another on Sunday. Both had multiple points of origin. The one on Sunday - five.
"So I think the short-term goal right now is get it secure, so we can stop people from getting in and out of there so easily. Long-term goals we're gonna have to talk about what we want to do with that area," said Chief Ingersoll. The Chief and other city officials met on Tuesday about the problem. The short term goal is securing the building; keeping squatters out and cutting down on the fire problem.
"That's not to say if the fencing goes up, they don't climb above the fence. They're climbing over the fences currently that are down there. We'll try to be as proactive as possible. We want to make sure the owner's responsible for it," said Mayor Robert Palmieri. "We've cited them and that's what we'll continue to do. We will cite and probably follow up with Supreme Court."
But there's no telling how long a court-ordered remedy will take, so the mayor is also looking to Albany for help.
"I've already reached out to the governor's office. Waiting to get back, some type of funding because the only way to remedy the problem is abate and demolition of the building."
Frankfort and Utica officials will meet on Thursday to discuss the short-term goal of securing the building, and long-term goals of abatement and demolition.