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Owner tries to salvage ashes of Oxford Pine Products
NORWAY — Timothy Paul, the owner of Oxford Pine Products in Norway, is picking up the pieces and moving on after a fire gutted his business last month.
The town is willing to give him time to move on and try to get something for his property, but it won't be able to wait forever.
The building is on Marston Street, which runs behind Guy E. Rowe Elementary School and is a thoroughfare for students making their way to school.
"I asked the CEO [Code Enforcement Officer] to make an assessment [of the building's safety]," said Town Manager David Holt. "It's not a crisis yet; it's still winter, so you don't have as many children walking by. We would not recommend a hearing for a damaged and dilapidated building."
"Should the owner not be able to clean it up though, we may have to revisit it."
Both Holt and CEO Jeff Van Decker have been talking directly to Paul and are hoping to resolve the situation in a way that both suits the owner and prevents the building from becoming a safety hazard.
"We've been talking with the owner and he has a number of ideas [about what to do with the building]," said Holt. "We accept and appreciate his situation, but given its proximity to the school, the building is something we will have to keep an eye on."
Paul is exploring ways to get value out of the property. He had dropped his insurance policy in December because of Oxford Pine Products' precarious financial position, so he didn't receive any compensation following the fire.
He has asked for estimates on the cost of knocking down the building, but he doesn't currently have the money to pay for it himself.
"Somebody that knocks down buildings gave me a quote and we're talking $15,000 to $20,000 to knock it down and I don't have that type of money," he said.
Paul claims that he's been in contact with someone who might be interested in buying the building and wants to have it sold as soon as possible.
"What I would like is just to sell it outright and wash my hands of it," he said. "I'm hoping myself by the end of the month to have something positive about it one way or another."
"It's not like we're just sitting around and saying we're not going to do anything. Yes we are but it does take time. Somebody's not just going to, out of the blue, come and buy the building without checking everything they need to do on their side, as far as finances and all that."
While he understands the concerns, Paul doesn't believe that the building is currently a safety hazard.
"David Holt came by the day of the fire and his main concern is, of course, the kids, which I understand," said Paul. "But the sidewalk where the kids are supposed to walk is on the opposite side of the street so if they stay on the sidewalk where they're supposed to be walking, they won't even be by my building."
He and his friends have been in several times, salvaging what they can.
"The fire marshal let us in that building the same day so he must have thought it was safe," said Paul. "I wouldn't let myself or my friends in there if I thought it was dangerous."
"We've been in there several times since the fire and, obviously, it looks horrible to me, because I've been going to that building for 34 years and its not a pretty sight; but outside of that I think it's all set."
Paul isn't confident that Oxford Pine Products can be restored in another location.
"The last couple years have been tough, the way the economy is," said Paul. "It's a family business and we were surviving because we owned the building and everything in it."
Nonetheless, he is keeping his head up and, like so many others in the area, dipping into the job market.
"It's a whole change in my life. I've never had to fill out a job application form in my life and I'm 47. I went to work for my parents and they're not gonna make me fill out an application," said Paul.
"I've got an awful good resume; I've been doing the same thing since I was 11 years old."