Opera House owner Barry Mazzaglia is either a good actor or completely out of touch with reality if he is "shocked" by a Norway vote Tuesday night to take over his teetering building.
A majority of the estimated 200 voters at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris voted to take the building by eminent domain and pay Mazzaglia $185,000 in compensation. Mazzaglia, contacted after the meeting, vowed to fight the action in Superior Court, where a judge will set a fair price for the building.
It's a shame the town has to pay even a dime to take over the building. Because of its damaged and unsafe condition, it's worthless on the open market. It's impossible to imagine a private owner taking over the pile of headaches beneath the building's collapsing roof and sagging walls.
The real value of the building is to the citizens of Norway, and in preserving a key piece of Norway's history and streetscape.
Mazzaglia told the Sun Journal after Tuesday night's meeting that he was "shocked that the townspeople didn't see through this." Either he was kidding or in denial about his responsibility for this mess.
A portion of the old building's roof collapsed about two years ago after rainwater was allowed to pool on its roof. The collapsing roof broke a sprinkler pipe, all of which damaged the building and forced the tenants on the first floor to move out. Now, about 60 feet of one exterior wall bows dangerously, leaving the structural integrity of the entire building in question.
Mazzaglia should be credited with entering the structure and setting up some temporary bracing. But that's about it.
Since then, however, he's done little, and two separate engineering studies have found the building unsafe and in need of complex and expensive work to restore its stability.
On Tuesday night, Mazzaglia was painting himself as the building's savior and blaming the town for its damaged condition.
"I'm very shocked the town's people wouldn't pay to fix it," he said. "It would have been a lot cheaper for them to have put a roof on it when they owned it than trying to fix it up now."
That's absurd. The town hasn't owned the building in more than 30 years.
Mazzaglia bought the building in 2003 when he out-bid a community group, the Norway Maine Opera House Corp., which wanted to buy and preserve the building.
He now says he bought it "blindly," which is an interesting admission for a guy in the construction business.
It's also irrelevant.
When you buy a building you own it, warts and all. The real damage occurred four years into his ownership.
If this building is to be saved, the citizens of Norway will have to roll up their sleeves and do it. We applaud the civic-mindedness of Bill and Beatrice Damon in donating $200,000 to help the town complete the eminent domain purchase.
Still, the path forward is clouded by uncertainty. But the first step on this path is getting the building out of Mazzaglia's hands.