NORTH VASSALBORO — Ray Breton hopes to turn what was once an eyesore on Main Street — an abandoned gas station with tall weeds and trash — into a sight for sore eyes.
Now, the former Carl’s Quick Stop is still a blighted property across from the old woolen mill. Breton owns that building too — the mill closed more than 50 years ago — and is slowly renting out parts of it to businesses. It’s one of six buildings he owns in the area, including the 1845 Greek revival Mill Agent’s House on Priest Hill Road that is often visited by ghost hunters from across the country.
Breton, a self-employed builder, decided earlier this year to take on a new project: the gas station that closed in 2008.
Contractors working for the state Department of Environmental Protection recently unearthed the old underground storage tanks. They removed the sign that advertised $3.04 for regular unleaded gas, and got rid of the square pumps and service island.
Through the federal Brownfields Program, the state DEP has spent $35,000 at the site, said Nick Hodgkins, an oil and hazardous materials specialist with the DEP. The state has one more round of tests to perform before it will be done with the project. The largest tank was buried 12 feet deep and the hole has since been filled with sand.
“The site, when we first got there, was very rundown,” he said. “It was a really pretty shoddy looking property.”
What remains is a boarded up shell of an old building that once doubled as an apartment building and convenience store. The asbestos siding must be removed, and then Breton is hoping the town fire department can use it for training and burn it down.
“If it becomes a lawn, that’s fine for now,” he said.
Once the ground settles, Breton may build a couple of offices or a duplex that’s handicapped accessible.
As owner of several buildings in town and a landlord, Breton said he’s heard from businesses and residents who are interested in working or living on the former gas station property. Mostly, he wants to clean it up, both because it’s directly across from the mill and because people in town asked him to try to address it.
Town Manager Mary Sabins said selectmen have encouraged Breton to do something with the property, allowing him to dispose of trash and recyclables for free at the town transfer station. Breton is shopping around for a good price on the asbestos removal, and has gotten three bids so far.
“Even though it looks like a mess, it’s way better than it was,” he said.
Sabins has the pictures to back it up.
Last October, she and other town officials toured the property, where they found tall brush and junk left outside as if it were a dump. There were rotten deck boards and a rickety set of stairs.
Inside, they found exposed wires everywhere, dirty cat litter boxes and used mattresses.
“It’s come a long way from what it used to look like,” Sabins said. “Ray’s done a tremendous amount of work to get it cleaned up.”
Susan Cover — 621-5643