Coakley requested the injunction blocking demolition and sought the freeze on Padellaro’s assets after a fire on Jan. 13 destroyed the oldest of the 27 buildings on the South Canal Street property and damaged several adjoining buildings. The fire was the most recent of several at the former mill in recent years. State arson investigators visited the mill for three days after the fire but have not reported a cause.
Padellaro submitted a handful of cleanup plans over the years, including one after the January blaze that called for simply burying the asbestos on the site; the DEP rejected them all, resulting in the years of delay for major demolition work.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency stepped in on June 4, when it announced at a press conference outside the mill that it had begun the process of declaring the property a Superfund site. The declaration would allow the agency to do the cleanup itself and send Padellaro the bill.
The EPA joined the effort after a plea from Mayor Daniel Rivera, who told the agency that Padellaro had “willfully ignored” the state DEP’s directives and did not have the assets or insurance to pay for the cleanup and demolition. The agency’s speedy response to Rivera’s request contrasted with the years of inaction by former Mayor William Lantigua on the troubled property, where Padellaro posted a sign suggesting the former mayor’s administration would be a player in its redevelopment.
Padellaro bought the former mill from Andover developer Stephen Stapinski for $1 in 2010 in what former city officials described as a tax dodge for Stapinski. The property owes more than $5.4 million in property taxes and in sewer, water and fire watch fees, a debt that makes Padellaro, who assumed the overdue bills when he bought the property, the city’s biggest tax deadbeat.
Bowers, Padellaro’s lawyer, would not say what assets Padellaro may have to pay for the cleanup and the demolition expected to follow. Padellaro was fired from the Lawrence police force for misconduct in 1998.
“He’s happy (the EPA) is being of assistance,” Bowers, an assistant city attorney in Lawrence for 10 years who is now in private practice, said about his client. “He’s cooperating.”