The Town of Stafford contracted with an engineer to inspect the old Odd Fellows Building this morning and owner James Pontillo feared the goal of the inspection was to find a reason to condemn the building.
If that was the goal, that wasn't the result.
Engineer Dennis Halstead looked over nearly every inch of the building and told Pontillo at the end that he didn't see evidence of slipshod work.
Pontillo has been working on a restoration project with the building since he assumed ownership in 2010. It's been a lot of work, and there is a lot of work still to do, and Pontillo feels like the town has tried to impede his progress every step of the way.
Last year, Pontillo and the town fought over a fence he built along his western property line. The case eventually went to court and Pontillo prevailed.
Today's tour started in the first-floor business units, where once, most recently, there was a tattoo parlor, and the former location of the Stafford Trading Post (which, back in the day, was the town's post office, general store and armory.
Pontillo explained that he has installed a firewall around the kitchen, where one didn't exist before.
In the basement, Halstead looked at the electrical paneling, which has all been replaced, and the new heating units, which Halstead said looked like good, quality work.
The third-floor apartments all looked clean and well maintained, with a new heating system. Pontillo improved the ingress/egress to one of the apartments by removing a portion of the stage riser that partially blocked the entrance, a remnant of the Odd Fellows Temple days.
That apartment has a raised floor (the old stage) for its living room.
The third apartment is a studio and Pontillo has nearly completed refurbishing it, with new walls, new door frames, new kitchenette and a completely renovated bathroom.
In this room, one of the town inspector's, Gene Sinclair, told a reporter that it looked like Pontillo was doing a good job with the renovations.
"If only he would get permits for his work first," he said.
When told about the remark later, Pontillo chuckled and said, "If only it were that easy."
At the end of the tour, Halstead told Pontillo some of what would be in his report. Even though the building has had businesses, including a food business, on the first floor, and apartments on the second floor, for generations, it still needs some fire-code-related improvements. Either there needs to be a two-hour burn barrier between the second and third floors or Pontillo needs to install sprinklers, perhaps only over the kitchen part.
Pontillo said he intends to install sprinklers in the stairwell leading to the second-floor apartments, as well (if he does, he may no longer need the fire escape on the west side of the building).
There are no other major issues that immediately stand out, Halstead said, but his report will be a series of recommendations with options for Pontillo to consider. He recommended Pontillo go over that with his engineer and that the engineer draw up a plan, put his seal on it, and supply it to the town. Halstead said he would also be happy to talk with Pontillo's engineer.