SANFORD — The big excavator equipped with a pair of “scissors” on the end of telescopic arm grabbed at the concrete at the corner of the rear tower of Stenton Trust Mill. The concrete started to crumble and some of the steel emerged.

The process of dismantling the rear tower of the old mill – essentially vacant for more than a decade, and gutted by fire in June 2017 – began Monday.

The dismantling continued Tuesday and likely won’t be completed until the end of September.

Built in 1922, the mill was once part of the Goodall textile empire begun by family patriarch Thomas Goodall in 1867. In the mid-1950s, the Goodall family of mills was sold to Burlington Industries, which shuttered them a year later.

The building at 13 River St., which became known as the Stenton Trust property, named for one of the later owners, was used as warehouse space by a number of small manufacturers and before becoming vacant.

The rear tower was consumed by fire on June 23, 2017, leaving a hulking skeleton of rusted steel and concrete. Three boys, 12 and 13 at the time, were originally charged with arson, but admitted to criminal mischief and were ordered to serve one year probation.

On River Street, near the entrance that is cordoned off to prevent access by unauthorized personnel, resident Ralph Desmond had stopped to watch as the big machine tore into the concrete.

He wasn’t around in the Goodall days having moved to Sanford in 1980.

“I’m glad its coming down,” said Desmond, who, like many watched as firefighters fought the blaze that June night two years ago. “I imagine all the stuff that went on in that building.”

Across the street, Mark Rouillard, who owns Central Furniture with his brother, Matt, remembers when the store’s warehouse was located on the fourth floor of the rear tower that is currently being demolished. It was in the late 1980s, and Rouillard was 12, and helping out in the family business.

“It was like walking back in time – so much of it hadn’t changed,” Rouillard said. “I felt like I was in a museum.”

The equipment had been removed, he said, but the signs were still up, and there was writing on the walls, penned by the people who used to work there, leaving their mark.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is paying for the demolition and associated costs, like the earlier removal of asbestos from the front tower that will remain standing, and disposal costs of the rubble and steel when the project winds down. All told, the EPA has budgeted $1.7 million for the project under its Emergency Response and Removal Program.

As the excavator from subcontractor Costello Dismantling of Exeter, New Hampshire, continued to dig into the six-story structure, a misting station attached to the machine applied water to keep the dust down, a second mister was positioned on the grounds, and workers occasionally took a garden hose and applied more water on the ground.

John McKeown of the EPA’s Region 1 office in Boston was at the site on Tuesday and said the misters are used to control dust that may contain asbestos fibers.

“There’s probably not a lot of asbestos, but there is some,” in the rear tower, he said.

There also are four dust tracking air monitors mounted around the perimeter, he said, and if dust levels are elevated, the monitors send a signal to a data collection station and work is temporarily halted until dust levels decrease.

McKeown said the concrete rubble will be handled as special waste, because of the potential that it may contain asbestos fibers, and will be taken to an approved disposal location in Norridgewock. The steel is headed to Schnitzer Steel, a scrap metal recycler, in Massachusetts, he said.

He said the main goal of the project is to eliminate environmental concerns.

“We want people to be comfortable with the project,” he said.

Kelsey Dumville, community involvement coordinator with the EPA, noted that the agency had hired a contractor to remove all of the asbestos from the front tower.

Once the EPA’s job is finished, the city will use a portion of a separate, $800,000 EPA Brownfields grant to conduct additional cleanup in order to secure approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection under the Voluntary Response Action Program that provides protection from future enforcement action, City Manager Steve Buck said in a prior interview.

With a Voluntary Response Action Program in hand, the city would take possession of the property, Buck 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, he said.

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. 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.

Rouillard, meanwhile, recalled working in the fourth floor warehouse as a boy, and being fascinated with what was on the third floor.

“A maintenance guy named Wayne had a collection of old car engines including flathead Fords and a Chevrolet 327 on crates, in rows,” he recalled.

At the time, there was a shoe factory in the basement, and a women operated a cafe there, he said. A company that made rubber products occupied the first floor, and the second floor was vacant.

From the 1920s through the mid-1950s it was textiles.

“In a way, a lot of people started and ended their working life” at the mill, Rouillard said.

Tammy Wells — 207-780-9016

[email protected]


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