SANFORD, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Three boys accused of starting that massive fire in Sanford last month that destroyed an old mill building were back in court today.
The boys, a 12-year old and two 13-year olds, are all facing a felony charge of arson. The judge set dates in October for their cases to be heard.
After spending several days at the Longcreek center for juvenile offenders, two of the boys were allowed to go home with their parents. The other is staying with grandparents. Under their terms of release they will all be under house arrest. They are not allowed to leave the home without a parent or guardian.Between now and October they will undergo mental health evaluations and risk assessments.
The crime they are accused of committing has left behind a big mess for the city of Sanford to contend with. Cleaning it up is expected to come with a big price tag. Officials from the city and Sanford Fire Department did a walk through of the burned out mill today with representatives of the federal EPA and state DEP. They were looking for hazardous materials left behind, asbestos and PCBs. There are concerns toxins will eventually make their way into nearby bodies of water. The city is hoping those agencies will help in paying for the clean up.
“Nobody has ownership on the structure. The banks that formerly held the mortgages has released those. The owner of record has been through multiple bankruptcies so it’s very difficult to trace back to ownership as far as getting financial relief”, said Sanford City Manager Steven Buck.
Initial estimates put the price tag of the clean up at least $1.5 million. City leaders don’t want taxpayers to foot that whole bill.
Besides the hefty clean up costs and the hazards left behind, the fire put dozens of firefighters lives in danger. Sanford’s fire chief hopes this sends a message to young people about what can happen when you play with fire.
“There are three young individuals who’s lives may be changed forever as they go through the court system. They probably had no idea, or maybe they did, that this sort of action would happen, how many people it would affect, how its affecting a community”, said Chief Steve Benotti.
One person who is immediately affected is Mark Rouillard, who owns Central Furniture right across the street. He now has to unlock the gate to the burned out mill several times a day to allow trucks to get to his warehouse right next to the structure.
“I’m sure they’re going to need us to make some adjustments in how we operate for a short time as they take it down. We want to work together with the authorities”, he said.
There is no timetable set for the clean up and removal. The fire chief says the sooner, the better.
“The longer it stays exposed to the elements, the more dangerous the building becomes”, Chief Benotti said.
The chief says the winter elements will make it deteriorate more rapidly. He hopes a plan can be put in place to take it down before then.
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