WILTON — The town has been awarded a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help with the former Forster Mill cleanup.

The 235,000-square-foot building on Depot Street has been vacant since 2004. Since acquiring the property through foreclosure in March, the site cleanup and ultimate demolition of the building have been a key issue debated among town officials.

The grant, announced Friday in a news release from the Office of U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, is for environmental cleanup and demolition of one section of the dilapidated building.

A representative from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection told Wilton residents at a public hearing on the mill in December that the full remediation and demolition of the mill could cost $900,000 to $1.2 million.

Town Manager Rhonda Irish has applied for three $200,000 Brownfields grants in December, though the one awarded last week is the only grant the town will be receiving this year.

The site has been divided into five parcels for the cleanup and demolition. The $200,000 grant will focus on Parcel 1 located along Depot Street, which is the largest section of the property.


“I think it’s great that we got this funding because it’s going to go to the first main section,” Irish said.

Included in the grant is a $40,000 match requirement for the town. At Town Meeting last year, Wilton residents approved setting aside $25,000 for the building cleanup. At Town Meeting next month, residents will be asked to allocate another $50,000 to the Forster Mill Fund.

Irish said, if passed, this $75,000 will go toward the match and possibly the demolition of a free-standing wall outside of the Parcel 1 section.

Two phases of Brownfields funded environmental assessments of the property conducted last year found asbestos and containers of hazardous materials throughout the site as well as hazardous PCBs and metals.

The grant for Parcel 1 will be used first to conduct asbestos abatements in several bathrooms within that area of the building, Irish said. Then some hazardous materials, such as barrels and scrap metal, will be removed from the area in order for the section to be demolished. Once the section is demolished, environmental testing that couldn’t be conducted with the building standing will be completed on the roof for asbestos and screening of the soil underneath the foundation for traces of hazardous materials.

As the funding schedule stands now, work cannot begin on the clean-up until Oct. 1. However, Irish said she will put in a request to receive the funds early when she signs all the paperwork for the grant on June 16. If they are given the go ahead for the “preaward option,” work could begin on putting project bids together by the end of June.


The grant is for up to three years, but Irish said that does not mean the project will take three years to complete.

In October, Irish will again apply for the two $200,000 EPA grants that they did not receive in this round of funding. She was not discouraged by not receiving the full amount, but was grateful that the project at least will finally get a visible start.

State Sen. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, a former Wilton selectman, was elated to hear the news that the mill had finally received federal funding to begin the cleanup. As selectman, Saviello told his fellow board members at a meeting last June that the mill was “his biggest disappointment” in his four terms on the board.

Saviello cited the struggle the town had with the building’s previous owner, Adam Mack, to clean up and demolish the building under his ownership. A lawsuit that the town of Wilton brought against Mack in an effort to force him to finish a demolition attempt that began in 2011, was dropped when the town gain ownership through foreclosure in March 2015.

Saviello applauded Irish and the select board for pressing forward with the cleanup.

“This is fantastic,” Saviello said. “I give all the credit to Rhonda Irish and to our selectmen because they’ve continued to pursue it.”


Located on Depot Street, the dilapidated mill sits as an eyesore and a liability for the town of Wilton, according to Saviello. But with the town being able to get work started on the Forster Mill and worked slated to start on a $400,000 downtown revitalization project in late summer, the town is headed in the right direction.

“We’re trying to move this town forward,” Saviello said. “It’s great.”

This is the second Wilton project to receive Brownfields funding within recent years. A cleanup of the former Wilton Tannery Co. was completed last summer and has since been purchased by Wilton selectman and businessman John Black, who is presently working to turn the former tannery building into Wilson Stream Business Park.

Wilton received $200,000 in Brownfields funding for the tannery cleanup with a $40,000 town match. A $150,000 grant from the state Department of Economic and Community Development was also used for the project.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

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