OXFORD — The town has signed a purchase and sale agreement on the former Robinson woolen mill with investor Chuck Starbird, Town Manager Michael Chammings said at Thursday's meeting of the Board of Selectmen.
However, the sale hasn't been finalized, because of issues relating to easements on the mill property, he said.
“There are a lot of easement issues in there,” Chammings said.
The former Robinson Manufacturing Co. mill is still owned by the Oxford Economic Community Action Agency, a nonprofit group that doubles as a town committee. It was formed in March 2011 when the town was attempting to get a Community Development Block Grant to fix up the former woolen mill on the shore of Thompson Lake.
Chammings said the town's attorneys advised the town to clear up the easement issues before transferring ownership from the agency back to the town to finalize the sale.
Starbird has begun working on the mill as he and the town work out an agreement. He is repairing the mill's roof and adding garage doors, the town manager said, and plans to open a limousine service in the building.
Chammings said Starbird is “taking a risk” making the repairs but said the investor wants to get repairs finished before winter.
In August, selectmen directed Chammings to begin negotiating the sale with Starbird, a developer who has restored a mill in Mechanic Falls.
Chammings said 1.2 million gallons of water have been pumped from old storage and treatment tanks on the property. He said about 73,000 gallons of sludge remain in the tanks. Starbird would pay to have the sludge pumped out, and the steel tanks will be removed and sold for scrap, he said.
The woolen mill, which employed hundreds of workers in its heyday, was built in 1840 and purchased by John Robinson in 1849. At its peak production, the company produced more than 5 million yards a year of fine wool, cashmere, camel hair, alpaca, angora and other fibers. Some of its material was used for Union Army uniforms during the Civil War.
When the mill closed in 2004 due to foreign competition, it was the last wool manufacturer in the state and one of the last in the country. John C. Robinson, a descendant of the original owner, began plans to redevelop the property into condominiums, restaurants, commercial spaces and a textile museum.
The town took it over in 2009 for nonpayment of $244,920 in taxes.
The property includes the 172-year-old three-story brick mill, a nonfunctioning waste treatment plant, a one-story brick building and a large metal marina building.