WILTON — Construction work on a $400,000 revitalization project is underway in downtown Wilton with other improvement projects taking shape around town.

Meanwhile, the dilapidated Forster Mill is finally getting cleaned up and will be torn down after years of delay.

The downtown project has been in the works since 2015, when the town received a $400,000 community development block grant. In the time since receiving the grant, the town has worked with engineering firm Wright-Pierce to focus on aspects of Wilton’s downtown area that need improvement and incorporating those fixes into an overall plan.

With selectmen approving draft plans over the summer and accepting a bid from a construction company to complete the project, work on the improvements began after Labor Day and is scheduled to be completed in early November.

“Right now, everything is being torn up so it’s hard for people to visualize it,” Town Manager Rhonda Irish said. “Once light posts start going in and the cement is poured, then it will look a lot better.”

The revitalization project aims at improving the aesthetics and the walkability of downtown. Improvements begin near the monument near High Street and extend down Main Street as far as the Wilton Free Public Library.

The grant is a Community Development Block Grant originating with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered through the state Department of Economic and Community Development. Town voters in 2014 had to approve designating a portion of the town’s downtown as “slum and blight” in order to be eligible for the grant.

The slum and blight area runs from Wilson Lake along Main Street to Depot Street and along Depot Street, which is Route 156, to the intersection with U.S. Route 2. It includes a mix of occupied and unoccupied residential and commercial properties, such as the dilapidated Forster Mill building. The designation made the town eligible for up to two years for the CDBG program.

Improvements in the downtown project include installing new streetlights, bumping out sidewalks, extending sidewalks to areas that did not previously have them, and making improvements to a public parking lot on High Street.

The town will be pitching in about $40,000 from its capital paving account to make the improvements to the High Street parking lot, including tearing out and reinstalling a set of concrete stairs that have become unsafe, according to Irish.

The $400,000 grant is a part of a series of development projects in both the public and private sectors in Wilton over the last year.

Just outside of downtown, on Depot Street, a long-term effort to tear down the dilapidated Forster Mill and clean up the site is becoming reality.

Earlier this year the town received a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help with the Forster Mill cleanup. The grant was one of three $200,000 EPA grants Irish applied for through the agency’s Brownfields grant program.

The $200,000 grant will fund the first stage of remedying environmental issues and tearing down a part of the 235,000-square-foot building.

Irish said she anticipates the demolition of the mill and the full cleanup to be a multi-year project, as the town will have to continue to apply for grant funding from a variety of sources to fund the entire demolition, which could cost upwards of $1.2 million, according to figures presented to residents by a Maine Department of Environmental Protection representative at a public hearing in December.

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

After receiving the grant in May, Irish worked over the summer to file the remaining paperwork necessary to receive the grant and selectmen formally accepted the grant funds in July. The town has since contracted with Ransom Consulting to be the town’s environmental consultant on the first phase of the project.

Irish met with state and federal environmental representatives on Thursday, the official kickoff meeting to the first phase.

Discussed were several final environmental assessments of the property that need to be completed before cleanup and demolition of Parcel 1 can begin, Irish said.

She does not anticipate requests for proposals on the demolition of the building to go out until next year, but that community outreach meetings on the project will be scheduled for later this fall.

The former mill has been vacant since 2004. Since acquiring the property through foreclosure in March 2015, the site cleanup and ultimate demolition of the building have been a key issue debated among town officials.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

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