Mayor George Apel has never been known as one to pull any punches.
And on Tuesday night, when the subject of the Amerbelle Textiles factory complex in Downtown Rockville came up, his words were quick and to the point.
"If the building goes, it will go," he said. "Our biggest concern is fire. It will collapse in a fire and it will collapse right over a waterway."
The Town Council on Tuesday unanimously voted to appropriate $75,000 to temporarily "secure and winterize" the property.
Apel said the move "will give us time to make some decisions."
The building's ownership situation was adjusted some time ago but was not an issue until Amerbelle officials announced in June that the business was closing. In 2003, Amerbelle transferred ownership of the complex to the town, but the town then quickly transferred the deed to the non-profit Hockanum Industrial Development Venture Corporation, which has been serving as a rent-collector, Economic Development Coordinator Shaun Gately said.
The rent was just about enough to cover the taxes, Gately said.
The town can still take measures to make the 250,000 square feet of property at 104 East Main St. safe, town officials said.
"The real concern here is safety," Apel said.
In a memo to the council, Apel said "numerous" attempts by Gately yielded "no immediate re-use plans for this facility, especially not without a seven-figure investment by the town."
Apel said he sought the opinions of Fire Chief William Call, Fire Marshal Ray Walker, Police Chief James Kenny and Emergency Management Director Michael Purcaro and their "uniform" opinion was that the mill was "a public safety concern of the highest order."
It is the consensus of the town officials that a minor fire started by trespassers or something like an electrical malfunction, would quickly spread and engulf the building. Purcaro said the building has had no upgrades in years.
The fire, because of the building's location on a hillside corner, would be difficult to fight, Apel said. The building would almost certainly collapse into the spillway below, clog the flow of the Hockanum River and potentially flood sections of Rockville, he said.
One town official said the situation with the property "is like a bomb."
Apel said the building will be made safe for the winter, including police surveillance.
The best and perhaps only way to protect the citizenry is to demolish these buildings," Apel said in the memo. "This position has been endorsed by the
public safety officers, the director of Hockanum Industrial Development Venture Corporation and members Vernon's Risk Management Advisory Committee.
Apel said he is trying to secure funds at either the state or federal level to fund the dismantling, but added the town may have to use bonding for the work.
No estimated price tag was presented at the meeting.
Apel said the town is obtaining an initial estimate for the work and then would solicit bids for the demolition services.
"Given the age of the location of the building over the Hockanum, the demolition will be complicated and expensive," he said.