BUCKSPORT, Maine — The stage is set for town councilors to condemn the historic Wilson Hall and to order it repaired or demolished.
The three-story former seminary building has been vacant for nearly four decades and the New York owner has done little or nothing to maintain the building except what has been required by the town.
Code Enforcement Officer Jeff Hammond brought his concerns to the council earlier this year after he made an inspection inside the building. He told councilors in November that the building is in danger of falling to the ground and has had no maintenance or repairs, according to Hammond. It is now in poor condition. The roof is leaking, and many of the wooden structural members are rotting. The bell tower atop the building is leaning because the wooden beams that support it also are rotting.
Town Manager Roger Raymond said last week that the structure is in such poor shape that a heavy snow could collapse the roof.
The council had set a public hearing to take formal testimony on the condition of the building and to determine whether it was dangerous or a nuisance and should be removed.
On the advice of attorneys, the councilors opened the hearing Thursday, but continued it until January without taking public comment.
Raymond said the reason for the delay was to give the town time to notify the owner, Aaron Gleich, of the hearing. Gleich, he said, has refused service of previous attempts to notify him of the hearing, including phone calls and letters.
“We’ve attempted to notify the owner of the property of the hearing,” Raymond said. “He has not accepted service and we are working with our attorneys to have him formally served.”
Raymond said the town’s attorneys have advised him it would not be appropriate to hold the hearing until he has been notified so that he has the opportunity to attend.
The hearing has been continued until the council’s first regular meeting in January.
If councilors agree to condemn the building, the council would then order Gleich to correct the problems in the building or have it removed. Several officials have indicated the building has deteriorated to the point that repairs likely would be too costly.
If the owner did not repair or remove the building in the allotted time, the town could have the building removed and place a lien on the property in order to recoup the demolition costs.
Wilson Hall was built in 1851 for East Maine Conference Seminary and was part of the campus later used by an Oblate religious order for missionary training and education.
The building, located on Oak Hill overlooking Fort Knox and the Penobscot River, is listed on the Maine Historic Register. In 1999 it was added to the list of Maine’s Most Endangered Historic Properties by Maine Preservation, a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving the state’s architectural heritage.