ELLSWORTH — City officials have issued permits to Webber Energy to demolish the former Ticonic 4 Engine House, also known as the community building at Ellsworth Falls, according to paperwork filed with the city’s Code Enforcement Office.
The permits were issued on Sept. 10 for the demolition of two buildings located at 4 Bangor Road.
The buildings, a white main house and a red barn, are on two adjacent lots. It will cost around $25,000 to take down both, according to paperwork filed with the city.
Webber has owned the property since 2005, when it purchased the former firehouse for $5,000. The 3,600-square-foot building, constructed around 1888, has served at various times as a fire station housing steam-powered fire engines, a polling place, a community building and a thrift shop.
The building is not on the historic registry but has been acknowledged by city officials in the past “to have significant local historic interest by the Ellsworth Historic Preservation Commission,” according to a request for proposals in 2004.
The building had been in poor shape for years before it was put up for sale. Webber officials wrote to the city in 2004 that the company was “ready to fund the requirements” outlined in an inspection done that year, including re-siding and other safety improvements.
But some neighbors are concerned that the company has not kept up its end of the bargain, insisting that little money has been put into maintaining the property.
“I kick myself now because I think that I could have tended it better, even with a lower budget,” said Judy Blood, who owns a house that abuts the property. Blood said she and her husband considered buying the property when the city put out the request. They drafted a proposal but ultimately decided not to submit it.
The city owned the property for 117 years before officials decided upkeep had become too expensive and listed it for sale along with another package of properties, including the former Courthouse and the Old Registry Building.
In soliciting for buyers in 2005, officials wrote that they were committed to selling the properties “to the most responsible proposal, not necessarily to the highest bidder.” Submissions were to be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission and ranked by the city manager and city councilors.
In his company’s winning bid, Webber Oil Co. Vice President Raymond J. Cota Jr. wrote that the company did not plan to use the space “for any grand development scheme, but rather to assist an organization and control the future of this parcel.”
“It will allow a special organization to continue their good deeds,” Cota said, referring to the thrift shop operated by the Union Congregational Church.
Webber owned property to the left and rear of the building as well as across the street, Cota said, adding that the company could provide extra parking or “additional land in the event the building needs to be moved.”
Several residents spoke against the planned demolition at a City Council meeting Monday night. Blood told the council that the demolition “is in direct violation of the request for proposals” when the city sold the building.
Blood said she filed an appeal with the city two days after the demolition permit was issued, but noted that “There is presently no stipulation for a stay or rescinding the permit during the appeals process.”
“An appeal process is useless if a building can be demolished before an appeal is heard,” Blood said. “The right to a fair appeal remains in jeopardy.”
“Anyone could have come up with $5,000 and left the building to deteriorate,” Blood said. “I trust that was not the intent of the city, or else they would have done that themselves.”
Terri Weed Cormier, president of the Ellsworth Historical Society, and resident Rebecca Maddocks-Wilbur also spoke against the demolition.
“Please stand up to Webber,” said Maddocks-Wilbur, “and hold them accountable to the agreements they made.”