NORWAY – Town Manager David Holt told selectmen Thursday night that he toured the damaged Opera House earlier in the day with owner Barry Mazzaglia and Portland engineer Alfred Hodson and found it in essentially the same condition as it was more than a year ago when part of the roof collapsed.

“We didn’t find anything blatantly obvious than we found over a year ago, but we didn’t see any improvements,” he said.

Selectmen asked Holt to get a professional structural assessment and building appraisal to determine what to do with the historic Main Street landmark.

Patricia Amidon of Amidon Appraisal Company in Portland is conducting the appraisal. Hodson, of Resurgence Engineering and Preservation, is doing the structural inspection.

Their reports are expected to be completed within the next week or so, and Holt said Mazzaglia has agreed to meet with selectmen to review the reports.

The 1894 three-story brick edifice was severely damaged Sept. 21, 2007, when a partial roof collapse sent water pouring through every floor. Two ground-floor businesses were forced to move. The upper floors have been vacant for decades.

Since the roof collapse, the building has been advertised for sale for $600,000.

Holt said he has suggested the windows be boarded up. He said it is unreasonable to expect Mazzaglia would notice any breakage immediately because he lives in New Hampshire.

Selectmen’s Chairman Bill Damon suggested that if the windows were broken by vandals using a fire escape that runs the length of the building, some of it should be dismantled.

At the future meeting with Mazzaglia, selectmen are expected to ask him for his plan to address any dangers that exist in the building and to nearby properties, and what insurance is in place for liability and cleanup if the Opera House collapses.

Holt told selectmen two weeks ago that the town should be prepared to act if the situation warrants. Those actions might include condemning the building for the safety of the public.

“Taking (the building by eminent domain) may be considered if it seems that this is the only way to protect the historic center of town from being lost or the town subjected to huge cleanup costs in the event that the Opera House collapses,” Holt said in his report Nov. 20.

The building was constructed by the Norway Building Association, then owned by the town from 1920 to the mid-1970s, and then by a succession of private owners for the past 30 years or so.

The ballroom and balcony on the upper floors played host to the community life of Norway, including concerts, balls, traveling minstrel shows, theater performances, National Guard musters, town meetings and high school graduation ceremonies. The top stories have been unused since a movie theater closed in the 1970s, and the five ground-floor storefronts have had occupants off and on over the years.

Mazzaglia bought it for $225,000 in 2003 after it was placed on the state’s Most Endangered Historic Properties list by Maine Preservation of Portland.

The Opera House anchors the town’s National Historic District.


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