Lights out at 26 businesses in Woonsocket

By: Alexandra Cowley

26 businesses in Woonsocket are scrambling to find a new location, after electricity is shut off to their building for unpaid bills. But that's not the only problem these buildings have had. Because of their age, the owner has been struggling for years to keep them up to safety code and now the place is dark.

“I'm stunned and I'm still a little overwhelmed about everything that is going on,” said business owner Connie Anderson.

“That space is home, really home,” said another business owner Anne Olson.

The reality of what's going on with the two historic mill buildings in Woonsocket still hasn't sunk in with the business owners who rent space there. On Thursday, National Grid cut the service to both buildings on Main Street because of overdue bills.

National Grid says the owner, Marie Deschenes could have paid a portion of the bill to keep the lights on, but didn't. We caught up with Deschenes at the buildings but she declined an interview, only saying she's done everything she can for the last 8 years to bring the spaces back to life.

Despite being uprooted, the business owners who rent space, didn't have a bad thing to say.

Anderson said, “We know the burdens she's been bearing to try to maintain such a monumental facility, so my heart goes out to her I've tried to work with her.”

Anne Olson's Fencing Academy is on the third floor. With 45 students and over 75 members, she and her husband are frantically searching for a space as perfect as the one they've had for 7 years .

“Hopefully this is just a temporary thing and we'll be able to either find other space that the town is helping us work on or we can go back home,” said Olson.

The Fencing Academy has temporarily relocated to a VFW in Forestdale, Rhode Island.

Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt says her entire staff is feverishly working to find new space for the businesses. In the meantime, there is no timeline as to when the lights will turn back on in the historic buildings, the owner is hoping to apply for grants.

(C) WLNE-TV 2014