Town demolishes portion of Webster Mill building

A demolition crew takes down a portion of the Webster Mill building on Monday, March 4. The work was done in response to the risk of the building collapsing. Photo by Leslie Deschenes
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A demolition crew takes down a portion of the Webster Mill building on Monday, March 4. The work was done in response to the risk of the building collapsing. Photo by Leslie Deschenes  

Town officials have commenced with the demolition of a section of the Webster Mill building, as sections of it are on the verge of collapse.

Work on the former jewelry manufacturer began on Monday and continued into Tuesday, according to a spokesperson for the town government. Webster Mill sits on Broadway, and the work will be focused on the portion of the building adjacent to the road. 

According to information provided by the town, a previous roof collapse put pressure onto a wall, compromising the building’s structural integrity. This resulted in the building bowing inward and putting it in danger of collapse.

Officials reviewed the site the week of Feb. 26 and determined that part of the building, which has been closed off for years, is in danger of collapsing. They reached out to the owners, who responded on Thursday, Feb. 29, with a claim of indignance, or extreme poverty. 

“The town will continue to work with the owners to purchase the property and properly clean it up so it can be put back into use,” a statement from the town read. 

Two aspects being focused on during this demolition is mitigating the spread of asbestos or pests. Last Thursday, Pest Assassins—which has locations in Newton and Smithfield, Rhode Island— established a control perimeter and began monitoring the area. This will continue throughout the end of March to prevent the possible spread of pests into other areas of town. 

The company has used traps, which contain EPA-approved rodenticide marked, lo cackled and weighted to prevent any contact. 

Debris from the demolition was removed from the site in a “ten mil reinforced poly film membrane,” according to the town, to mitigate spread. According to a 2015 report, there is evidence of asbestos in the materials, roofing, piping and floors. 

The town will be covering the costs of the work. Because the town does not own the mill, it can only demolish the section in danger of collapse. The process to take over the site via eminent domain would be long and expensive, according to the town. 

During the demolition earlier this week, water was sprayed onto the building to prevent the spread of asbestos into the air and a cover placed on top of the debris to mitigate any further spread. Air quality monitoring was conducted during and after the demolition process. 

“Since learning of the imminent threat that the Webster Mill poses to the public safety, the Town has taken swift action in collaboration with our local and state partners to begin the partial demolition of the building,” Town Manager Michael Borg said in a statement. “We are committed to ensuring that all public safety and health protocols are followed during the demolition process, and we will continue to work with the owners to clean up the property and put it back into use. In the meantime, we ask that community members do not go onto the property as its unsafe to do so.” 

Last week a detour was put in place for several roads around the building. They include the following:

  • Broadway from Richards Avenue to Bank Street remains closed to all traffic. 
  • Southbound traffic detoured from Broadway to Richards Avenue, Richards Avenue to Washington Street, and Washington Street to Eddy Street back to Broadway. 
  • Northbound traffic detoured from Broadway to Bank Street, Bank Street to Morse Street, and Morse Street to Richards Avenue back to Broadway.   

On Sunday, the town announced that this detour would be extended from Richards Avenue to Roosevelt Avenue. A detour sign was placed at Eddy Street, allowing residents to go downtown or take Roosevelt Avenue to continue onto Broadway. Only residential traffic will be allowed onto Broadway between Roosevelt Avenue and the corner of Bank Street. Bank Street will also be closed to through traffic with a detour at Ralph Street. 

The detour will be lifted once the building inspector and public safety officials determine that the area is safe to pass through.