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January 17, 2019

Grant, loan mean last remaining portion of Wilton mill will come down

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
The last remaining pieces of Wilton’s former Forster Mill will come down with $300,000 in grant and loan money for the ongoing environmental cleanup.

The last remaining pieces of Wilton's former Forster Mill will come down with $300,000 in grant and loan money for the ongoing environmental cleanup.

Development of the mill site is considered a major key to the town of 4,000's economic stability, and once the town-owned property is cleared, plans to redevelop it can move forward, Town Manager Rhonda Irish has said. The town plans commercial or industrial redevelopment of the 18 acre site on Depot Street, which is Route 156, a gateway into town from U.S. Route 2.

The four-story brick main portion of the 232,000-square-foot mill was torn down last February and March, but a smaller wooden portion still remained, part of the ongoing brownfields cleanup. That building had been used as a paint shop, among other things, and there are a number of environmental issues, Irish said last year.

Those issues will be addressed with a $150,000 grant and a $150,000 loan, administered through Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments.

The mill closed in 2010 and went through a botched partial demolition in 2011 that was halted by a fire, a foreclosure and the major brownfields cleanup.

The town acquired the property in 2015 through foreclosure, and after three years of legal wrangling and environmental cleanup, the main portion of the mill was razed last year.

A town workshop on the work that can now be done with the grant and loan will be held Feb. 5, and a special town meeting will be scheduled to accept the money.

The environmental work will be town by EnviroVantage of Epping, N.H., which also did the work on the main portion of the mill. Environmental consultant is Ransom Consulting of Portland.

Mill dates to 1902

More than $400,000 has already gone into taking the mill down, Irish said in March. Money came from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency brownfields grant, a Community Development Block Grant brownfields loan program and town undesignated money.

The mill was built by Wilton Woolen in 1902 on the site of a former canning factory. Wilton Woolen closed in 1955, and Forster Manufacturing, which employed 430 at one point, bought it in 1960. The company made croquet sets, wooden turnings and clothespins and the paint shop, in the oldest part of the mill, added to eventual hazards at the site, according to a 2015 brownfields report.

That's the portion that is still standing and will be razed with the grant and loan.

When Forster Manufacturing closed in 1985, Jarden, which makes plastic cutlery, occupied the space for several years before relocating to East Wilton. Diamond Manufacturing subsequently bought it, manufacturing toothpicks. Its last life was as a printing press and box cutting operation in the early 2000s.

The town is open to development ideas for the site, which is a short walk from downtown, Irish said.

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