Updated June 18
The vacant modular trailers intended to house Oak Bluffs town employees were not so vacant last month; police discovered people squatting inside.
On May 22 at 9:30 pm, police entered the trailers after receiving a tip that people were squatting inside, according to a police report. Several of the doors had keys in the locks, but one room was missing a key.
Inside the room, officers discovered personal items, makeshift beds, and clothing. Officers also discovered human waste “throughout the room” and “piled up” in the trailer’s bathrooms that don’t have running water.
“I can’t imagine it was good. Can’t imagine it was sanitary,” said Sgt. Dan Cassidy, who was not on the scene, but provided details from the police report.
Officers left the building, but returned at 2 am and identified a male, 32 years old, sleeping in the room. He told officers he was in the building so he could charge his phone in a warm place.
The man told police he received permission from “the program” to be in the building, and believed the trailers were a makeshift homeless shelter, part of the Parish Center next door. He said he “wasn’t doing any harm and thought since the building was unlocked that it was OK,” the report states.
Police charged the man with a breaking and entering misdemeanor. The man told officers another man was living in there. Police believe a third person was also living with them.
Officer Timothy Millerick, one of the responding officers, asked the man who was caught how long he had been staying in the building.
“I’m not homeless, I just bounce around. Sometimes I sleep in a tent because it’s cheaper than paying $1,000 in rent,” he said, according to the report.
Selectmen chair Brian Packish and town administrator Bob Whritenour went inside the trailers after the police had cleared out the inside.
Packish said there wasn’t any damage to the inside of the trailers, and it appeared the people who got inside had picked the lock on the door.
The break-in is the latest in a series of blunders that began last year when two rounds of bids for the new town hall came in millions of dollars over budget. Voters then shot down additional funding to meet bid prices, throwing the project into limbo and leaving the town with no new building, and locked into an 18-month lease for empty, unused trailers.
The $9.8 million approved by town voters at the 2017 annual town meeting included the cost of a new town hall and the temporary town hall trailers.
The six trailer modules, stuck together to form 4,200 square feet of office space, were leased from Modulese, a North Attleboro–based company. The trailers were leased for $8,200 a month for 18 months. After the lease runs out, the town has the option to rent the trailers out on a month-to-month basis.
“The trouble with the lease is that the cost to dismantle and remove is more significant than the timeline on the lease,” Packish said. “It’s unfortunate that we’re even in the position, but right now, unfortunately, it makes the most sense to keep them … which is a tough pill to swallow.”
Now coming up on 11 months into the lease, the town plans to move administration from the Oak Bluffs School into the trailers while extensive roof repairs are being done at the school.
After the new town hall project failed, the town decided to focus on renovating the current town hall with the funds raised at the 2017 town meeting. Town officials met with representatives from Icon Architecture, a Boston-based firm, on Wednesday. Packish said Icon will begin its feasibility study for renovations next week, which will take five to six weeks. After that, the town will hold the first public forum about the renovations.
Updated with more details from police report.