MILO, Maine — Crews and heavy equipment were on-site Friday to begin the cleanup of two of five buildings that were destroyed last month by a quick-moving arson fire.
The fire destroyed the Milo Flower Shop, a former movie theater, the Spot Game Room, Milo True Value Hardware Store and the Hobnobbers Pub, as well as the living quarters above them. The fire also heavily damaged the Milo House of Pizza.
Authorities said the fire started in the back of the pub and was connected to a break-in the same night, but no one has been arrested in connection to either the break-in or the fire.
As he stated earlier this month, Piscataquis County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said Friday a lot of evidence was collected and is being processed at the Maine State Police Crime Laboratory. The investigation is continuing, he said.
As that investigation continues, the affected business owners are moving forward with the cleanup. The work on Friday began with the hardware store and the flower shop, both of which were insured. The removal of Hobnobbers Pub is expected to begin soon. While the pub building was insured by the owner, the building’s contents owned by Val Robertson, who leased the property, were not.
It could take up to four weeks before the town can remove the two uninsured buildings, the former movie theater and the Spot Game Room. Since federal and state funds will be used for that project, a lengthy environmental review must be done, according to Dr. Ken Woodbury of the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council, which is assisting the town with the project.
“I know it’s frustrating to people that we can’t get at this sooner, but the environmental laws and the laws requiring notification, notice and time for public comment are meant to protect the public,” Woodbury said Friday.
The town received a $30,000 Community Development Block Grant for the removal of the two uninsured buildings and a contract was awarded earlier this week to Chabot’s Construction of Greene, which had bid $13,450 to do just the demolition work and debris removal, Milo Town Manager Jeff Gahagan said Friday.
The remainder of the $30,000 grant will be used to fill in the basements with gravel, and for topsoil and seeding for erosion control, according to Woodbury, who wrote the grant application.
As to future efforts, Woodbury said Val Robertson wants to purchase the land where Hobnobbers Pub was located to rebuild her business. The owners of the hardware store, who had their business up for sale before the fire, have made no decision yet to rebuild, he said.
Woodbury said town officials hope eventually to acquire the Milo House of Pizza building and make it part of the total footprint for downtown redevelopment.
As part of that redevelopment effort, Woodbury is submitting an application for a Riverfront Redevelopment Grant. If awarded, and depending upon the local match funding, the town would like to do the following:
ä Purchase and convert the concrete slab that juts into the Sebec River owned by Ridgewood Maine Hydro Partners into a handicapped-accessible “pocket” park for pedestrians and for fishing.
ä Extend the current Veteran’s Park out to Main Street.
ä Purchase and install floating handicapped-accessible docks on the Sebec River near the park.
ä Make Main, Elm and Park streets safer for pedestrians, which would include lighting.
ä Purchase the lots that contained the uninsured buildings.