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February 26, 2014

Judge to mill owner: Demolish ruins

Ex-cop faces contempt charge if he fails to get rid of rubble from Jan. 13 inferno

BOSTON — A state Superior Court judge yesterday gave the owner of the former Merrimac Paper mill until Monday to submit a plan for demolishing at least five contaminated and fire-ravaged buildings at the complex at the edge of downtown Lawrence.

Judge Bonnie MacLeod also ordered owner David Padellaro to stop salvage operations at the mill, blocked him from selling the property and froze his personal assets, including his home and bank accounts, in an effort to ensure that the cost of demolishing the parts of the mill that the city of Lawrence has condemned does not fall to the city and state.

In issuing every injunction sought by state Assistant Attorney General Tracy Triplett, MacLeod also suggested to Padellaro that the state has run out of patience trying to make him comply with earlier directives to demolish parts of the mill in compliance with environmental laws designed to contain asbestos and other toxins.

“I know this arm of the attorney general,” MacLeod told Padellaro, who represented himself at the hearing and did not oppose any of the injunctions Triplett sought. “They hate being stonewalled. They’ll come in like they’re going through the Bastille. If they feel they’re being stonewalled, then they start ratcheting up to contempt.”

Padellaro has disregarded several earlier edicts from city building officials and the state Department of Environmental Protection to demolish a half dozen or so of the 27 buildings at the South Canal Street complex since he bought it for $1 in 2010 from Andover developer Stephen Stapinski. Stapinski bought the mill for $84,000 at a bankruptcy auction in 2005 with the hope of building a commercial and residential development, but was unable to obtain city approvals.

Several fires have erupted at the mill under Padellaro’s ownership, including one on Jan. 13 that destroyed its original 1880 building and reignited the attention of the state and city, leading to yesterday’s hearing. The hearing ended with a warning from MacLeod that she may hold Padellaro in contempt if he does not stick to the schedule for the demolition and cleanup included in her injunction.

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