Three times the amount of asbestos tile found in Kennebec Valley Inn cost of removal more than doubles.
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SKOWHEGAN — Removal of asbestos tiles from the former Kennebec Valley Inn in preparation for demolition of the building has hit a snag. Instead of a single layer of tiles that have to be professionally removed and properly disposed of from the third floor of the building in downtown Skowhegan, remediation workers found three layers of the hazardous material over 90 percent of the building.
Eben Henderson wears a respirator while tearing off siding on the historic Kennebec Valley Inn in Skowhegan on Monday.
Eben Henderson wears a respirator while tearing off siding on the historic Kennebec Valley Inn in Skowhegan on Monday. Staff photo by David Leaming The discovery means the building’s owner, the Skowhegan Economic Development Corp., will have to come up with more funding for the work, said SEDC Executive Director Jeff Hewett. “They have to remove all of the asbestos that has been found on the building,” Hewett said Monday. “Originally we thought it was just one layer on the third floor on the outside and some stuff on the inside, but we have come to find out that there is three layers on the whole building — 90 percent of the entire building.” Hewett and SEDC President Jason Gayne said the original cost of removing the asbestos came in at about $17,000. The cost is more than double that amount now, estimated to be around $36,000.
SEDC purchased the three-story building for $73,000 in March and plans to tear it down to make way for a new, multi-use building that could take advantage of the site’s proximity to downtown, the local movie theater, the Somerset Grist Mill and weekly farmers market, all with plenty of parking in the adjoining municipal lot. He said he wants the property back on the town tax rolls.
The building was purchased in 1985 by Dale and Eunice Thorpe. The plot of land where the building currently sits is about 90-by-110-feet in size, or about 8,700 square feet. Hewett said inquiries to the Maine Historic Preservation Commission in 2015 revealed that the building was not eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, despite the fact that the building was a hotel in the busy railroad square of Skowhegan. “The site is not considered sensitive for archaeological resources,” the commission’s Robin Reed wrote to Hewett in July 2015. Hewett said the fact that the hotel is not in its original location and that a third floor was added later make it ineligible for historic designation.
The site of the Kennebec Valley Inn is the original Maine Central Hotel, which was built in 1904, consisting of a renovated wing of the Heselton House hotel on Water Street, where the Municipal Building now stands, according to material from the Skowhegan History House.The wing had been moved on logs by oxen to its current location in 1901. The train station and freight yard for Maine Central Railroad was at the rear of the building. In 1930 the hotel was remodeled as an annex to the New Skowhegan House hotel, which was located where the Chamber of Commerce building is. The annex was called the Milburn Hotel. It was sold in 1972 and called the Midtown Hotel and kept that name until the Thorpes took over in 1985 and renamed it the Kennebec Valley Inn. The inn later became a weekend dance club called Rumors. It closed finally in 2011. Marc and Janet Wheeler, of Skowhegan, moved in during the summer of 2013, opening the Blue Moon Lounge on the ground floor. The Wheelers closed for the winter in 2013-14 and reopened briefly in the spring 2014, but then closed again and did not reopen.
It remained vacant until Mike Kresge and his wife, Annette, opened a country-and-western-themed lounge and restaurant at the site in 2016. They renamed the place the Kennebec Valley Inn. The lounge and restaurant were turned into a sandwich shop last year and finally closed in September.
The town, with approval by voters at the annual Town Meeting this month, purchased a 30-foot public easement, meaning that the driveway and land between the site and the Napa Auto Parts store, the former Aubuchon Hardware store, is open to public traffic from Court Street to the municipal parking lot. Gayne said he is working with local businesses to assist in fundraising to pick up the extra cost to complete the work on the building and the final demolition. He said about $18,000 is needed to get all the work done. Gayne said Tom McCarthy of Skowhegan has been hired to do the demolition work. McCarthy did the demolition work on the Skowhegan “eyesore” property at the corner of Commercial Street and Madison Avenue in 2011. Hewett said demolition work is expected to get under way by June 29, with some of the removal work starting this week or next week. The project should be all done by July 20.