Orleans Officials Hold Off On Governor Prence Demolition

By: Ryan Bray

Topics: Municipal Planning and Zoning , Housing and homelessness , Orleans news

Vermiculite and other materials sit outside one of the rooms at the former Governor Prence Inn on Route 6A. The town will seek $75,000 through town meeting in October to secure the property, which has been subject to repeated vandalization. RYAN BRAY PHOTO

ORLEANS – The former Governor Prence Inn will stand on Route 6A for at least a few more months while town officials work to get an estimate for the cost of demolition.

During a joint meeting on Aug. 26, the select board and the affordable housing trust fund board both opted against putting an article before voters at next month's special town meeting seeking authorization to raze the property. Officials hope to have a better idea of what the cost for demolition might be in time for next year's annual town meeting in May.

Instead, two articles related to the property will be prepared for the Oct. 17 special town meeting. One will seek $75,000 to continue maintaining, securing and insuring the building, which has been subject to frequent vandalism. A second article would authorize the select board and the trust fund board, which share custody of the inn, to dispose of the property.

Deputy Police Chief Sean Diamond of the Orleans Police Department said between 10 and 12 rooms at the inn have been broken into, either through doors or windows. Police have set up cameras and established additional patrols of the property in an effort to curb the vandalism, he said.

Police have also observed spray painting and damage to mirrors and porcelain toilets in bathrooms, Diamond said, adding that cameras have observed people passing through the property to get to the Cape Cod Rail Trail nearby.

"It looks like it's more juvenile type activity, almost a spot to hang out if you will, that's out of sight of everybody," he said.

Tom Daley, the town's public works director, said the highway department has placed about 30 pieces of plywood over broken doors and windows in the past month. The inn's rooms are easily broken into, he said.

"In my humble opinion, if you give it a year or two we're going to have the entire place having to be boarded up, and that place is going to be covered in vines and overgrowth," he said.

Prior to the Aug. 26 joint meeting, the town received a 108-page hazmat report outlining what needs remediation on the property. Ron Collins, the town's facilities manager, said the work that needs to be done at the inn is "extensive," including the removal of vermiculite in the inn's attic. There is also vermiculite outside of one of the rooms from a soffit that fell through the inn's ceiling that needs to be cleaned up, he said.

But the report does not include cost estimates for what the remediation and demolition might cost, Town Administrator John Kelly said.
Kelly said voters approved $100,000 at town meeting to hire an architectural professional to outline plans and specifications for the property's demolition and restoration. That included the recently completed hazmat study. But without hard numbers spelling out what the work will cost, select board members said they were uncomfortable moving ahead with an article in support of the inn's demolition this fall.

"I don't think it would be appropriate for us to go to town meeting without having this report completed," Select Board member Michael Herman said.

Instead, Kelly recommended that an article be advanced for the special town meeting seeking the money necessary to secure the property. Beyond October, he said additional money could be sought through future town meetings as needed to continue to maintain and secure the property until it is ready for demolition.

Kelly said the current situation at the inn is similar to problems the town faced with vandalism to the former tri-town sewer treatment plant years ago.

"This is the same scenario," he said. "It's not in the middle of a residential neighborhood. You don't have interested homeowners who are there all year watching who comes and goes."

Mark Mathison of the select board said the town should approach plans for the inn "one year at a time." He agreed with moving forward with money this fall to secure the property, which the town carries liability insurance on.

"We need the report, as Michael said, with real dollars listed there for what needs to be done to demolish it, what the issues are. If we want to put that out to bid, so be it. Put it out to bid," he said.

But the select board and affordable housing trust fund board both need to come to an agreement on a plan for demolition before they can go out to bid for the work, said Alan McClennen, who chairs the trust fund board.

"Just keep that in mind as we go down this road," he said.

Email Ryan Bray at ryan@capecodchronicle.com