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“Free man” appeals removal from former Lyons Falls school

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LOWVILLE — A self-described “free man” is appealing a judge’s decision that Lewis County may remove his family from a long-shuttered school building.

Robert R. Syversen has filed a notice of appeal of state Supreme Court Justice Charles C. Merrell’s ruling in late February that the county is allowed to remove those living in the old school building at 6832 McAlpine St. until code violations are resolved.

“This appeal relates to each and every part of the whole judicial action,” states the notice, which was filed Thursday in the Lewis County clerk’s office.

The case is to be handled by the Appellate Division of the Fourth Judicial District in Rochester.

“He has the right to appeal, and he is,” county attorney Richard J. Graham said. “So, we’ll keep pressing.”

In August, code enforcement officers, after obtaining permission from Judge Merrell, conducted an initial inspection of the school, which was closed by the South Lewis Central School District in 1982. They determined that a 1,200-square-foot section of the second story of the 16,032-square-foot building — still zoned educational — was being improperly used as a single-family residence, with a kitchen, bathroom and three bedrooms.

They also found peeling paint suspected to be lead-based, electrical wiring left dangling from ceilings and walls, and other deficiencies.

In his recent decision, the judge indicated the county had followed proper procedure thus far. He also wrote that Mr. Syversen had brought no “meritorious defense” to the matter and that the county complaint “raises serious issues regarding the safety of the Defendant and his family in their present living conditions.”

The old school building is technically owned by the Robert Rustad Syversen estate. While estates are regularly established when someone dies, Mr. Syversen apparently set up that one in an attempt to avoid personal liability in the purchase.

Mr. Syversen, who in 2010 filed paperwork at the county clerk’s office asserting that he is not a U.S. citizen or subject to governmental authority, also referred to himself at the most recent court hearing only as “a party with an equitable interest in the matter.”

The former school, built in 1927, temporarily housed some businesses shortly after its closure but has had little use in recent years.

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