NORWAY – The Opera House has been shored up and appears to be safe for the moment as the town continues to carefully move forward to determine the future of the Main Street building, Town Manager David Holt said Wednesday.

“We have to figure it out as we go,” Holt said of the unforeseen Sept. 21 disaster when six roof trusses dropped about 18 inches and broke the building’s sprinkler system, sending water through all three floors.

“Right now, the emergency is to keep anyone from getting hurt, and tomorrow something may change,” Holt said.

Al Hodson, a structural engineer with Resurgence Engineering and Preservation of Portland, returned to the building Wednesday after spending Tuesday there to continue his investigation into the structural condition of the downtown landmark and to ensure that it is safe for the winter. He is expected to issue a proposal to town officials soon.

Selectmen asked for a second structural engineer’s opinion Sept. 28 after Joseph Neville of Poland made an initial assessment that the brick building’s soundness “has been seriously compromised.” He predicted its eventual partial or complete collapse if nothing is done.

Hodson will look at two issues this week: keeping the building up and safe through the winter; and whether the building will be restorable, Holt said.

Barry Mazzaglia, whose Bitim Enterprises of Londonderry, N.H., owns the 1894 structure, has been shoring it up since the partial roof collapse on the south side next to Pennesseewassee Stream. There’s no insurance on the building, fire Chief Mike Mann said.

Two businesses on the first floor were flooded out. The upper floors have been vacant for decades.

Holt told selectmen last week that the cost of the engineering assessments might be paid from the Municipal Investment Trust Fund Grant that is available for the Odd Fellows building next door. That would require a vote of the Growth Council board and the certainty that the funds are not needed for structural assessment work at the Odd Fellows building, he said.

Marcy Boughter of the Growth Council of Oxford Hills said Wednesday the council has not voted on the issue.

Holt said that if the money is not available, the town will pay Neville and its share of Hodson, who is assessing the Odd Fellows project at the same time.

Holt said he also must consider the town’s wishes, especially how much residents are willing to spend as they go forward with engineering.


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