The way 9-year-old Jamie Tilt skipped home down Mary Street after school Thursday, it was clear she didn’t realize her family’s situation.
She knew there was no food in the home because it all went bad in the refrigerator. And she knew the family was out of charcoal from cooking their meals on a 12-inch hibachi grill filled with wood out in the front yard.
What the cheerful fourth-grader probably didn’t understand is why neighbor Andrew J. Dingman Sr. pulled the power supply wire out of the family’s electric meter last Friday, cutting out the water heater, stove and lights in the home.
The youngster’s family is caught in a dispute between Dingman, who has been arrested over the incident, and the family’s landlord, who lives in North Carolina and claims an inability to carry out the needed repairs.
It’s been a week since Tilt’s mother, Rita Spicer, has sought help.
She received food stamps from the county social services department and a list of landlords after officials suggested the family find another place to live. The department would foot the first month’s rent if suitable housing is found, an official said Thursday.
But the family spent the spare cash it had to rent a truck 12 weeks ago so they could move to 27 Mary St., a quaint one-story home far away from the turmoil Spicer claimed the family faced in its former home in Gloversville.
“It was cozy, it was home for us,” Spicer said, pointing proudly at the house. “I don’t want to move again,” she said before starting to cry.
It’s a tough situation for Spicer, 47. She said she is dealing with mind-numbing headaches caused by cancer that she said has spread from her lungs into her lymph glands and now into her brain.
Spicer is self-conscious about losing her hair after several weeks of radiation therapy, and she’s waiting for swelling in her brain to subside so she can have chemotherapy.
“Radiation knocks the loop out of you,” Spicer said.
Her husband John, who also lives in the home, is suffering from cirrhosis of the liver.
Spicer recounted a dysfunctional situation in Gloversville that resulted in one of her older children’s boyfriends throwing food at her and her former landlord tossing her belongings in the street. “You don’t understand, I’ve been through hell,” Spicer said.
The home is less than 40 feet from another house with power and across the street from a large senior apartment complex. The house sits in front of Dingman’s house, which is accessible only through a small driveway alongside Spicer’s residence at 27 Mary St.
It’s alongside that driveway where a rickety utility pole held the house’s power supply.
Andrew Dingman Sr. was not available for comment, his wife said late Thursday. Dingman’s son, Andrew Dingman Jr., said his father has been concerned about the liability of the precarious pole for more than a year and he didn’t want to be sued if it fell.
He said his father sent a registered letter to the property owner, Janice A. Rathbun, asking that the utility pole be taken care of.
But Rathbun, 65, claimed Thursday she is unable to take care of the situation. Rathbun said she doesn’t have the means to pay for another electrical service to be installed in the home. Rathbun said she was told a new electric service would cost about $3,000.
“I have nothing. I’m on Social Security disability, insurance won’t cover anything except the wire that was cut,” Rathbun said. “I’m worried about that lady, nobody will help her. I don’t know what to do. I asked [Spicer] to leave, just leave and find another house.”
But Spicer doesn’t want to leave. She sees the home as a step up for her family, with a “quiet environment and a good school.”
“[Spicer] just wants to have their family together as long as they’re alive,” Rathbun said.
Dingman Jr. said he was sympathetic to the family’s plight, but he said his father believes they are caught in the middle too. He said he has heard his father complain about the new neighbors letting guests park a car in his driveway and having animals in the yard.
Yard clutter is another complaint Andrew Dingman Jr. said he’s heard from neighbors. The yard is filled with pets, children’s toys and a trampoline.
State police last Friday charged Andrew J. Dingman Sr. with third-degree criminal mischief, a felony, and third-degree criminal tampering.
The wiring itself appears to have been pulled out of the electric meter, and Dingman Jr. said he believes National Grid sent somebody down to disconnect the supply from the wiring as a safety precaution.
Rathbun said Dingman Sr. threatened in the past to cut the power, arguing the pole is on his property, not hers.
But Rathbun, a former assessor in the town of Canajoharie, is convinced the pole is in a right-of-way.
“I feel so bad for them because I feel responsible even though I didn’t do it,” Rathbun said.
Representatives from the American Red Cross of Northeastern New York and FulMont Community Action Agency Inc. on Thursday said the situation is not the type to which they typically respond.
Four little ducks ran back and forth in the fenced off front yard at the home Thursday, to the delight of Jamie Tilt, who said she thinks one of the ducks is pregnant because it’s getting fat.
The sharp-minded girl is concerned but excited about an upcoming celebration. She and her older sister are planning a birthday party for both of them soon.
“We can’t celebrate it on two occasions because we have complications,” Jamie Tilt said.
She said the bad part about the birthday party is “we might have to order pizza” because the stove in the home doesn’t work.
Her sister’s birthday is May 5, Jamie said, and her birthday is May 29.
“That’s John F. Kennedy’s birthday,” Jamie Tilt said.
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Categories: Schenectady County