NORWAY – Town Manager David Holt said Thursday that the preliminary process to condemn the historic Opera House on Main Street is under way.

The action does not mean the building will be condemned or that it is unsafe at this time, he stressed.

“I honestly don’t know if it’s safe,” said Holt, who was on the roof Thursday morning to view the damage. “The longer it drags on, the more apt we are to err on the side of caution.”

Water from an apparent broken pipe in the third-floor ceiling poured through the walls and floors of the 1894 building, forcing two first-floor businesses to close their doors. The owner, Barry Mazzaglia of Bitim Enterprises in Londonderry, N.H., does not carry insurance on the building, according to Fire Chief Michael Mann. The second and third floors are unoccupied.

Mazzaglia, who has refused to comment on the situation, has shored up the sagging ceilings with two-by-four studs, but questions about the building’s structural integrity have continued to circulate through town as residents and business owners keep an eye on the building’s brick facade.

“We’re investigating condemning the building. That’s not to say we will do it,” said Holt. “Public safety is the paramount issue.”

Holt said the owner was asked on Thursday, through his property agent, for a report from a structural engineer as to the the condition of the building. If a structural engineer says the building is safe, then the town will not proceed with the condemnation process.

“It’s important for all concerned to see the report,” Holt said.

The selectmen, who meet next Thursday, will have to decide whether they will hold a public hearing, one of the steps necessary to condemn the building.

Meanwhile the town may cordon off the sidewalk around the building.

“To be really safe and cautious, we may do that in the next few days,” Holt said. “I don’t get a sense of danger when I walk down there today… I’m not a building expert but looking at what I looked at, I think it’s safe.”

Holt said he will become more nervous as winter snows approach and heavy snows start to collect on the roof.

“I haven’t seen circumstances like this in my experience. It’s a big building. It looks like it’s got some problems,” Holt said.

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