The last of the equipment used to tear down the Forster Mill is loaded up and ready to move out. All that remains of the historic mill are bricks, concrete and fill. Livermore Falls Advertiser photo by Nicole Carter

WILTON — Four-and-a-half years after foreclosing on the property, the walls of Wilton’s Forster Mill have finally come down. EnviroVantage of Epping, New Hampshire started the long process in March of 2018 and finished its work last Friday. Last year’s efforts focused on asbestos abatement and removal of salvageable materials. In June the second phase of the project began to completely raze the remaining structures.

Final approval to close out the project is still pending from both Maine Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Presence of asbestos and hazardous solvents and substances required oversight from the government agencies. Once the town has filed its final environmental reports, Wilton officials will assess the site for future use.

The most recent work done by EnviroVantage is projected to cost about $384,000, with current charges from Ransom consulting, the engineering services company overseeing the demolition, at about $11,500. The town received a combined $500,000 in grants and interest-free loans from ME DEP through the EPA Brownfields Project, and from Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments.

Town manager Rhonda Irish has already made recommendations to the Board of Selectpersons about things that should be done before winter, such as filling in low spots and adding additional security fencing. Concrete piers that supported the building over Wilson Stream will remain.

A section of Wilson Stream that used to flow beneath part of the Forster Mill on Depot Street in Wilton. Livermore Falls Advertiser photo by Nicole Carter

“While these columns are showing signs of deterioration, we opted to leave them as is,” explained Jamie Madore of Ransom Consulting last Friday. “Each one has footings below ground in the stream that are essentially established habitat. At this point we want to cause as little disruption to the waterway as possible. Removal of the concrete would require stream restoration, a completely different type of project with its own set of permitting requirements.”

The Select Board will have a land use consulting firm sort out the next steps, including how much buildable space is left on the site for a developer to work with. The property is 17.65 acres, split by Wilson Stream. The portion of the site where Forster Mill was located is about five and a third acres.

“Since more than 50% of the property value no longer exists any development will fall under current codes as new construction. That means no building can be located within 75 feet of the stream,” said Codes Enforcement Officer Charlie Lavin. The contours of the stream and Depot Road limit how much of the lot can be considered buildable.

The demolition of Forster Mill brings an end to an historic town landmark, where generations of Wilton residents worked, going back to 1901. For several years it was the Wilton Woolen Mill, adapting ownership and production several times over the years according to consumer and even World War II demand. Between 1960-1985 operations shifted to wood products made by Forster Manufacturing Company, like croquet sets and snap clothespins. After Forster Manufacturing closed out its Maine-based operations, Jarden Plastic Solutions moved in, producing plastic cutlery until it opened a new facility in town in 2003. Since then the property sat dormant until its last owner Adam Mack attempted to dismantle the mill in 2012. A fire and subsequent discovery of hazardous materials that were not properly handled shut down his effort. By 2015 Wilton officials took steps to foreclose on the property.

“Once the site is surveyed for use the town can come up with a final plan,” said Irish. “We may decide to sell it for development. It’s in the village zone so a buyer will have options, within the buildable footprint. Many residents have indicated they’d like to see it become a park. There is still a lot of work for us to do.”

EnviroVantage wraps up its demolition of Forster Mill last week. Livermore Falls Advertiser photo by Nicole Carter Buy this Photo

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