SANFORD – The long-anticipated demolition of the burned-out rear tower of the Stenton Trust mill is slated to begin on Monday, July 22, said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency manager of the project, Catherine Young.

The demolition, to be conducted by Costello Dismantling of Exeter, New Hampshire, is expected to be complete by the end of September, Young said by phone on Tuesday. She said those who live or work around the mill at 13 River St. should see equipment arriving sometime next week.

The rear tower, called Tower C by the EPA, which is handling the project under its Emergency Response and Removal Program, was burned in a fire in June 23, 2017. Three boys, 12 and 13, at the time, were charged with arson in the case, and each later admitted to the lesser charge of criminal mischief and were placed on probation for a year.

Resident Daisy Helstein had an up close view of the fire that Friday night in June two years ago. She and her family lived in the top apartment of a building on Spruce Street at the time. Now, they have moved to a building at the rear of the property, but the burned out skeletal remains of the mill is still a view from their deck.

She vividly remembers the night the mill burned.

“Police were making sure to let people know to gather their things if we had to evacuate,” she said, adding her family used propane and there was worry that the heat from the fire might cause the tanks to explode. Helstein said her brother, Warren Royea, who was living with the family at the time, was home alone earlier that evening when he spotted the fire and ran to tell a police officer who had a vehicle stopped nearby.

The arson fire that left the rear tower a skeleton of steel and concrete was so massive, it consumed 750,000 gallons of water. More than 100 firefighters from Sanford and many surrounding departments fought the blaze.

On the one hand, Helstein said, she’s sad to see it go, the mills are such a part of Sanford – but added it will be nice to see the area look better.

“I’ll be glad to see it come down,” said Phil Grenier, who operates Hair Styles Unlimited from his shop on River Street, next door to his home, where people gathered outside the night the mill burned.

Grenier said one of his concerns with the demolition is dust and debris.

Young said there will be continuous air monitoring for particulates and that water will be applied to the materials to make sure there are no dust particles.

She said the site is closed to the public, and that the U.S. Coast Guard ‘s Atlantic Strike Team has provided a safety officer at the scene. The Coast Guard often provides security for the EPA, Young said.

“His job will be to make sure people are safe,” she said.

Sanford City Manager Steve Buck said the U.S. Coast Guard will coordinate with Sanford Police for increased surveillance and area patrols.

Tower C, and sections B and D – which include smaller buildings, will be taken down slowly, Young said.

“Because there are so many people (living) around it, we have to be methodical,” she said. A structural engineer walked the site and it was determined that the building would come down a bit at a time. “(They will) cut the steel and take it down piece by piece,” she said.

Originally, the city was poised to cope with the steel and concrete debris once the building was demolished, but that has changed. On Tuesday, Young said the EPA will remove all debris from the building, will decontaminate the material and it will be trucked out for disposal. Any steel not contaminated will be recycled, Young said.

The EPA has budgeted $1.7 million for the entire project.

Tower A, the closest to River Street, and the underground tunnel that runs from the mill to a storage garage was abated of asbestos this spring and has passed inspection by Maine Department of Environmental Protection Asbestos Coordinator John Bucci, Buck told the City Council in an update on Tuesday.

The EPA has completed discussions with the State Historic Preservation Commission and concluded that portions of the saw-toothed roof on the one-story building that separates the two towers may be able to be salvaged and later used in the redevelopment of the site, Buck said. As well, the 1922 building has been photographed and the images will be stored at the Maine State Archives.

Once the towers and two other buildings have been demolished, the EPA will fence it, said Young.

Grenier said he’d like to see both the rear and the front tower demolished.

Constituents have told him they believe the entire structure should come down, City Councilor John Tuttle has said, but that isn’t in the plan.

“People still have concerns about the front tower,” Tuttle said on Tuesday.

Once the EPA’s job is finished, the city will use a portion of a separate, $800,000 EPA Brownfields grant to conduct additional clean-up in order to secure certainties from the DEP under the Voluntary Response Action Program that provides protection from future enforcement action, Buck said.

With a VRAP in hand, the city would take possession of the property, Buck explained. He said two seasoned developers have expressed strong interest in the front tower for conversion to mixed use, including residences and either commercial or retail space.

Though empty for most of the last decade — that last known business to occupy part of the mill structure was a wooden toy company in the mid to late 2000s — it had once been a showpiece in the Goodall textile mill empire. It later became the home of Seamloc Carpet. Later still, it housed a number of smaller businesses.

City documents list the owner as Gateway Properties LLC, a company, owned by Jonathan Morse, with a Reno, Nevada, address. Morse acquired the mill in 1999 and once operated a business there, but the mill has essentially been abandoned for more than a decade.

Outstanding property taxes and interest on the 7-acre parcel and mill building are in excess of $110,000.

Morse has been very cooperative with the city’s efforts, Buck said.

The landscape will look different without the rear tower, Helstein said, but she hopes something better will be made of the property, once it is gone.

“What’s really sad is when these mills closed, they did nothing with them,” said Grenier. “I’m anxious to see what it looks like afterward. Whatever they do will be an improvement.”

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

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