State arson investigators sifted through the rubble for three days immediately following the fire in a search for a cause. They have not released findings.
The cost of the demolition and cleanup could reach $500,000, according to City Building Inspector Peter Blanchette. He said he’s worried the city will be stuck with the bill, a possibility raised by another lawyer representing Padellaro.
“All this stuff is awfully expensive,” Sal Tabit, who is representing Padellaro against the criminal charges in Housing Court, said in an earlier interview. “What happens if he can’t do anything because he can’t afford it? You can’t get blood from a stone. Are you going to throw him in jail? (Then) the property is just going to sit there. The work won’t get done. He’s making every effort and turning over every stone to get the resources to do that.”
As substantial as the bill for the demolition could be, Padellaro faces bigger financial headaches at the former mill.
The unpaid liens on the property for back taxes, fees and interest date to 2002, which was eight years before Padellaro bought the former mill for $1 in a deal city officials said was intended as a tax dodge for the Andover developer who sold it to him. The unpaid bills now total $5.4 million, making Padellaro Lawrence’s biggest tax deadbeat by far.
He’s also required to maintain an around-the-clock fire-watch at the mill. A man dressed in camouflage stood watch over the property yesterday afternoon from a trailer parked beside the former mill, accompanied by an older, friendly spaniel that Padellaro jokingly referred to as a guard dog.