Wilton residents will once again vote in March whether to waive foreclosure on the former Forster Mill building, a dilapidated and dangerous building in the heart of downtown that had been contaminated with asbestos.
The town is suing the owner, former state legislator Adam Mack, to get him to demolish the building.
Residents can vote at a special town meeting at 7 p.m. March 18 to foreclose on the property instead and have the town tear the building down. Residents voted to waive foreclosure the last two years.
Scott Taylor, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said he expects the removal will end up costing the town whatever voters decide.
“We all feel, unfortunately, that the town is going to end up overseeing taking the building down, because Mr. Mack does not have the resources,” he said.
Michael Boyd, Mack’s attorney, didn’t return calls seeking comment. An office assistant said he was away at meetings.
The board voted 4-1 Tuesday to let voters choose whether to foreclose on the property or waive the foreclosure, with only Taylor dissenting. He said that if the town is likely to pay for the demolition, a foreclosure could avoid the legal fees of the ongoing lawsuit.
“I voted against it only because I thought we should go straight to foreclosure,” Taylor said Wednesday.
If the building is taken by foreclosure, the town could obtain ownership of the property later this month and could be obligated to tear the structure down because it is considered unsafe by town ordinance. The building’s assessed value is $184,200.
If the residents vote to waive the foreclosure, Mack still maintains ownership, the lawsuit continues and Wilton also gives up rights to the taxes that Mack owes.
Mack now owes the town about $2,993 for 2013 taxes, according to town records.
The civil suit pending against Mack started in July after the board expressed frustration about a year of no progress from Mack toward demolition. A Franklin County Superior Court clerk said Wednesday there had been no recent action on the case.
At the time the suit was filed, Mack, a former Republican state representative from Standish, was serving a six-month federal prison sentence after having pleaded guilty in October 2012 in U.S. District Court in Portland to misusing federal money in an unrelated incident.
A representative hired to act on Mack’s behalf while he was in prison said Mack hoped sell metal from the building to help pay for the demolition, which he estimated would cost $250,000 to $350,000. However, he later learned the building had been stripped of all valuable metal during a previous demolition effort in 2011.
The 2011 demolition ground to a halt after workers reported improper removal of asbestos from the building. No one had inspected the mill site for the presence of asbestos before the demolition, a violation of Department of Environmental Protection rules.
While cleaning up the remaining mess, an asbestos removal expert called it the worst asbestos site he’s seen in Maine in 30 years.
Before his employees reported the violations, Downeast Construction, owned by Ryan Byther, removed and sold piping worth an estimated $250,000 from the site. He was fined $154,200 earlier this year by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and removed from the project. Byther, at the time, was serving a six-month jail sentence for an unrelated incident.
In November 2012, Adam Mack’s company, Wilton Recycling LLC, was ordered to pay a $7,500 penalty to the state for the company’s role the in the asbestos hazard to employees.
Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252 firstname.lastname@example.org