Tremont Nail Factory funding stirs debate

By Bill Whelan | Jan 29, 2014

The Board of Selectmen voted 4-1 on Jan. 28 to allow the Municipal Maintenance department to apply for $595,000 in improvements to the Tremont Nail Factory. But, Selectmen did not see eye to eye on the need for the project.

"I wouldn't spend another cent on this place," said Selectman Patrick Tropeano. "The whole thing has been a disaster for us and there comes a point in time where you have to cut your losses, and that time is now."

David Menard, the director for the Municipal Maintenance department applied for Community Preservation Committee funds to fix the failing fire suppression system at the Nail Factory.

Selectman Alan Slavin said any department applying for Community Preservation Committee funds has to receive approval from the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee before applying for the funds.

Menard said the Fire Department would not allow the failing system to be shut down for safety reasons and Selectman Peter Teitelbaum said decisions about fire safety are left to the Fire District.

Teitelbaum said the town could do so much more with the money that is being spent on the factory.

"We bought it for $1.4 million, sunk $250,000 into the roof and are looking at roughly $600,000 [for the fire suppression system]," he said. "We're up to $2.25 million for something that doesn't really house a damn thing at this point."

Selectmen Judith Whiteside, Stephen Holmes and Slavin all had reasons for approving the application.

Slavin noted that the building could be used as part of the town's historical summer celebration when Menard said the project would only take two to four weeks.

Holmes said many people in the town have spent a great deal of time with this building and the Community and Economic Development Authority is looking to take advantage of the site.

"I think we're getting close to doing something here and it would be a shame to let it burn to the ground," he said. Holmes also said there are likely liability issues if the town does not approve the project.

"These funds and the historical district and societies exists so we can make something of these buildings," Whiteside said. "It really should go before the Town Meeting, it's their choice."

Teitelbaum said he would approve fund application, but wouldn't necessarily support the project at Town Meeting.

"I think it's nuts," he said.

Town Administrator Derek Sullivan said the town still owes $600,000 on property, but could actually save the town money because it is through a callable bond. A callable the bond could be paid off in full next year without any pre-payment penalties.

The one dissenting vote was cast by Tropeano.

"I say tear it down," he said.

Comments (29)
Posted by: Janet | Jan 29, 2014 07:46

Why should this Town keep sinking money into this building?  Put it on the market for a few months and see if anyone is interested.  If no interest, them raze it.  Those residents that claim to have a sentimental interest can pool their money and buy it.  How many of the residents still have any interest in it?  Historical interest?  Not worth the expense to keep it going!


I agree with Mr. Tropeano's statement "tear it down".

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Jan 29, 2014 08:00

Put a red X on it and dont spend another dime on it. As Janet states, those with an interest in it can buy it and do what they want with it. Sell the mess, even at a loss to get something back or rip it all down and turn it into a parking lot for the train. Charge for parking and over the years we may get something back out of it and still own the land.

Posted by: Andrea Smith | Jan 29, 2014 08:50

Gov. Patrick seems very supportive of expansion of commuter rail to the South Coast. If that expansion does happen would the nail factory property be considered as a potential commuter rail station/parking facility? Should decisions regarding a potential sale or use of the property be delayed until a commuter rail decision is made?

Posted by: Dick Paulsen | Jan 29, 2014 09:49

Ah, just tear it down, but unfortunately that would (probably) not put an end to the problem.  The problem?   Yes, this site is probably contaminated given what was manufactured there.  If that proves to be the case, and I am just speculating, forget about the building, forget about the land, just tear it down and do whatever needs to be done to put it in cold storage.


Do not, repeat, do not spend another penny on it until we know what is underneath the soil.  The Selectmen should have done this first, then gone onto other issues with the building.


Have CPC put up funds to do the environmental work, and if they have already done it, then publish the results.

Posted by: SGT | Jan 29, 2014 10:48

"The town of Wareham bought the complex in 2004 in what was called a risky gamble. In 2007, the town decided to invest in the upkeep of the mills so that the elements don't claim the structure."(From Wikipedia)

For almost 10 years we have had this site, and now when we don't have funds for teachers, etc., we are going to look for more money to put into this white elephant.  Now it seems that that some agency has ideas about using it.  10years to get an idea.

"  he building could be used as part of the town's historical summer celebration when Menard said the project would only take two to four weeks."  I am sure that this would be big money maker for the town.

Better to spend the money to take it down and put pictures and plaque in the Library(if they can keep that open) than to keep pumping money into this sinkhole.

Posted by: Doctor Deekas | Jan 29, 2014 10:51

The Fire department does not determine whether the Town should sprinkle its buildings or not, don't go down that road. The Fire Inspector makes suggestions. If the Town were to shut down the system, the only real liability would be in the building insurance as they would probably no longer cover a fire incident. The Tremont Nail Factory is one of the largest boondoggles of Wareham government, and yes, the voters were also sold down the Wareham river on this one. As Dick said, this place is definitely contaminated which is why it would be impossible to fix the dam as well. Don't forget that $1 million dollar disaster crumbling as each year goes on. And with this property being on the Historic Register, it limits is usefulness to someone that would buy the property as they would be able to do the work for less than the Town, but you are still looking at several million in rehab privately as well. Sell it to Makepeace, they owe it to themselves to own it before the dam breaks!

Posted by: MWF = Make Wareham Fail | Jan 29, 2014 10:57

Andrea, if you look around at commuter rail stations in other places they are much bigger than Tremont Nail.  And they are on main roads and have traffic lights so vehicles can get in and out easily.  Elm Street is way too tight a spot for all that traffic and the nail factory land is nowhere near big enough for parking.

Posted by: MWF = Make Wareham Fail | Jan 29, 2014 11:02

The assessors website lists the main building as worth $357,900.  Why would anyone in his right mind want to spend nearly twice that to protect it?

Posted by: Doctor Deekas | Jan 29, 2014 13:11

Maybe part of the celebrations and re-enactments this summer in Wareham could include a re-enactment of the British lobbing cannonballs and torches into the previous Tremont Nail structure back in 1812. Bet the whole town would turn out, maybe the entire county for a can't-miss photo opportunity! ;) We could have fireworks going off overhead for ambiance! 

Posted by: bob | Jan 29, 2014 13:31

doctor deekas,got it right,let the firemen dress up as british army,and let them burn the building down..people arnt going to ever come to wareham to visit a nail factory,and if that is the only interest,to come to wareham,we are in deep trouble...burn baby burn.....

Posted by: WeweANTICS | Jan 29, 2014 20:28

Please don't put another cent into that building!  With the amount of moisture going through that building it must be a mold factory and could cause even more health issues if it were occupied.   The town should be selling any piece of this location that can to try and recoup the loss, and definitely let the British re-attack it.

Posted by: Hissing Cobra | Jan 29, 2014 22:28

Why does COMMON SENSE never come into the equations when government officials discuss things? Patrick Tropeano's assessment is the best idea I've heard from a member of the town government in many, many years.


The time has come to finally put this albatross of a building to rest. It's time to TEAR IT DOWN once and for all. With a $600,000 mortgage on the property already, it blows my mind that there's leaders in this town that want to spend an additional $600,000+ to fix a damn fire sprinkler system. Yes, it will be done with Community Preservation Funds which is ironic because those funds couldn't be used for a new roof on the high school last year. Common sense in government? Yeah right!


Patrick Tropeano's comments are the best one's I've seen in town government in quite some time. I'm sure that the majority of Wareham residents would agree with him!

Posted by: Marilyn Donahue | Jan 30, 2014 10:33

Hiss and Dick - Common sense is not part of the constitution, nor is it written into our charter.  So we have to work with what we have.  Sadly, what often makes sense can get us in trouble if we don't take all factors.  For example, if an environmental test was undertaken, and positive results found, would that trigger an automatic requirement for a clean-up? Obviously we can't afford that liability. And what is the cost to tear it down and remove the debris?   More than we have in the budget right now.  Can we give it to the fire dept to use as a training facility for a controlled burn?  Are there viable tenants as the market improves?  As I posted under another comment, on the "rules for brainstorming" is about all ideas on the table while we sort through the details and costs.   I especially liked the one about the red coats burning it down!

Posted by: bob | Jan 30, 2014 14:13

marilyn,you hit the nail on your last sentance let it burn let it burn let it burn..the red coats are coming......

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Jan 30, 2014 14:16

Isn't there a document called a 21E  or something like that that is needed prior to the transfer of a commercial property to document enviormental problems? If we do not have a proper transaction if a 21 E was not done, can we go after the seller or who ever authorized the sale or allowed the sale to be completed without it?

Posted by: Dick Paulsen | Jan 30, 2014 16:08

As to whether we have any residual rights, well I doubt it.  But we do have what amounts to full-time legal counsel, he should be asked and then we should be told.

Posted by: Marilyn Donahue | Jan 30, 2014 16:36

21E refers to Chapter in Mass Gen. Laws  “Massachusetts Oil and Hazardous Material Release Prevention Act.”  An  environmental inspection is part of a sale of commercial property if the purchaser or their lender require it.  There are several levels, starting with a transaction screen to see if the is reason to assume contamination. (Based on the prior use of that property the answer is "yes.). From there it becomes more involved with further testing and remediation.  There is no legal requirement of which I am aware that mandates the testing prior to a sale (unlike the Title V regulations that require septic systems be inspected prior to sale). 

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Jan 30, 2014 19:09

I guess the next question is, was a 21E done or not. If not who didn't require one or advised against getting one with most everyones assumption being that theres a strong potential for contamination. If we dont know whats going on there we need to find out for sure.

Posted by: reader | Jan 30, 2014 20:42

Yes, a 21E was done just prior to the town taking title. It's not a toxic waste dump. Why not ask the Board of Selectmen for a copy? Mr. Slavin was on the Tremont Nail Master Plan Committee.  I'm sure they have the report.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Jan 30, 2014 21:56

Maybe an antique wood salvage company is interested in taking down the factory in trade for the lumber and scrap steel. They do it with old barns and may be a possibilty to get rid of a liabilty  That would take care of future maintainence and also make it more attractive to a future buyer of the property.

Posted by: totellthetruth | Jan 31, 2014 07:36

I seem to remember some prior publicity regarding a "21e" report. I think it said they found presence of  chemicals related to steel processing in the main building and in the ground behind it. No big surprise, but its there.

Good idea Sphere, theres a ton of money in "antique"building materials. My only question: Whats the Natinal Register of Historic Sites going to say about making that building into antique toothpicks?

Posted by: Voter | Jan 31, 2014 08:15

It seems fairly unanimous that consensus is to be done with it and raze the structure(s).  I tend to agree.  Wareham's leadership and various administrations have failed this asset, and others like Swifts Beach.

The TA is responsible for all town buildings except those under the management of the school district, NOT the maintenance director !

If anyone should be "applying" for Community Preservation funds it should ONLY be the administration when it pertains to Wareham's assets.  Why can't Wareham get it right ???

When are the officials of this town going learn their responsibilities ?

We're reading about over 2 million dollars of budget problems and instead of dealing with the tough decisions we're considering wasting another $600,000. Irresponsible !!!

I say be done with Community Preservation and stop taxing the residents for revenues that are continually ill invested.

Posted by: Janet | Jan 31, 2014 09:00

Voter, you made a good point!  Let's be rid of Community Preservation!!

Posted by: bob | Jan 31, 2014 10:43

The two past comments got it right, get rid of this extra tax..My street is over 100 years old, if you going to use community preservation on anything use it on our streets..they need to be preserved not a dam nail factory...

Posted by: Marilyn Donahue | Jan 31, 2014 11:27

Voter - RE: Tremont Nail Co.   The idea of razing Tremont Nail Co. may appear to unanimous in your mind, but this comment section is not representative of town opinion. 

FACT:  The TA worked with the Director of Municipal Maintenance to put together comprehensive proposals to present to the Community Preservation Committee. They did get it right and they fully understand their responsibilities.  That is how the policy and procedures work.  And while several members of the finance committee had serious reservations about the proposals and the use of CPC funds, we ultimately voted to allow them to proceed with the request.  We vote on the actual article if and when it is presented to us.

FACT:  The requests for use of CPC funds does not impact the town's budget as that money is reserved for specific uses.  If we spend $600K on Tremont Nail from CPC money that will not after the $2.9 mil deficit.  If we not use CPC money, and repairs need to be made from the town side of the budget, that will increase the $2.9mil deficit. The TA, BOS, CPA and Fincom will consider the options. 

I would request that you refrain from name calling until actual decisions are made. If you have actual, factual information that can help us solve the problem, please present it to a member of one of the committees. Our email addresses are all available on the town's website (as is the 2009 Tremont Nail Study.)  I assume you have a computer and free time, so I encourage you to research this.

Posted by: totellthetruth | Jan 31, 2014 11:27

The Town does indeed have the financial responsibility for maintaining its buildings. They deemed the financial responsibilty of our beloved Tremont Nail was to come out of the Municipal Maint. budget. Could that be one of the reasons they don't have any money too hire help?

While were on the subject of Tremont Nail-In past years ,The Main building has been heated all winter long to keep the Sprinkler pipes from freezing. I've heard estimates of anywhere from 500 to 2000 gals. of oil a month.

I don't know if they discontinued this practise or if they're still doing it.

Lets cut our losses and get out of this Albatross!!!!

As to CPA- When you cut through all the Crap; Its just a Prop. 2/12 overide under a different name.  Get rid of it.

Posted by: Marilyn Donahue | Jan 31, 2014 11:44

Spherebreaker - good thought!  now you are getting that brainstorming concept.  Just be cautioned that the project will be governed by state laws and would have to go out to bid with proper procedures.  The easy answers are never simple when dealing with government.  Complain all you want about red tape, but just not to those of us who are continually frustrated by the process. Until they are changed, those are the rules we are forced to play by.

Posted by: Voter | Feb 01, 2014 23:29

Ms. Donahue, With respect, and I mean that, as I understand you are an appointed volunteer.  Everyone who serves their community deserves some level of respect.

Nevertheless I find it interesting that you defend the process; I'm guessing because you and the FinCom play some role in it. While you note policies and procedures, and if you are correct, they are in conflict with Wareham's Charter. So maybe they need amending. The Charter says quite clearly that the TA is fully and solely responsible for ALL town property, other than that which is under the care of the school district, when it comes to managing maintenance.  If the TA chooses to consult with the maintenance supervisor/director as the one carrying out the duties, fine.  But the maintenance director should NEVER be applying for CP Funds to maintain Wareham's buildings.  Say what you wish but that is just irresponsible on the part of the administration !

If you want to do something responsible then insert an Article into the warrant to repeal or reduce the contribution into the Community Preservation Fund.  When Wareham signed on the state was to match the 3% contribution.  That hasn't happened in several of the years since Wareham voted the Act in.

It would be a great time to propose this as we are likely going to be asked to consider an override in the next budget cycle. Assuming its voted favorably, it would help to offset costs for those assessed for more than $100,000.

As for Tremont Nail, in my humble opinion, it was a very poor investment as I don't see and haven't heard of one single plan to offer any sort of return. Very sad !!!

TTTT- You are correct. It was an override under the guise of an official Act !  Wareham got sucked in and we have poorly invested/wasted the money and are being asked to waste even more. Enough is enough !

Posted by: P-SPAN | Feb 02, 2014 00:54

I used to be hopeful that some creative use of this property would come to light. But none has been forthcoming. So I am forced to agree with those who want to cut our losses. I think that no more money should be spent on this, and an article should be added to an upcoming town meeting which could start the process toward removing this perennial drain on our funds (CPC or not).


'09 Tremont Nail Feasibility Study

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