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‘Sand Hogs’ rescue historic Chesterville meeting house

4 mins read
Left to right, Mark Paddock, Fran Fuller, Paul Stancioff, Eric Badnes-Pedersen installing a support pier under the meeting house.
The crew is down in the crawlspace.

CHESTERVILLE – The 160-year-old Chesterville Center Union Meeting House has a new lease on life, thanks to the volunteer efforts of an ad hoc subterranean brotherhood that formed underneath the building recently, in the process of tackling some major structural repairs.

The self-anointed Sand Hogs, led by building contractor Jim Hazen of Chesterville, labored for several days on the structural support system of the meeting house, which had partially given way during a concert held there a year ago.

Although the problems with the support system at first seemed to threaten the future of the building, as it is owned by a small voluntary non-profit board completely unable to marshal the initially-estimated $10,000 job, the ingenuity and expertise of the Sand Hogs managed to rescue the building for a cost of under $1,000 for materials. A total of 23 support piers and 20 joists were installed, and the five main beams were reinforced.

The board appreciates the generous discount on the materials from Hammond Lumber Company.

Analyzing the situation as they went along, and collaboratively devising strategies to achieve their goal of complete structural soundness, the five-man team adapted to new discoveries and adjusted their personal schedules as the project progressed.

Asked about what inspired him to volunteer his time on this project, Jim Hazen emphatically noted, “It is so heartening to be able to save a building of this significance simply by addressing the beams. Other communities are not as fortunate, such as Belgrade, which recently lost such a building due to pervasive dry rot throughout it. This building is otherwise sound.”

Other members of the Sand Hogs team included Jeff Kelley, Paul Stancioff and Fran Fuller of Chesterville and Mark Paddock of Farmington, who brought his exchange student Eric Båtnes-Pederson of Norway along one day.

Jim Hazen, project engineer and coordinator, measures progress toward leveling the floor. In places it moved up 3 inches.

While the project has taken more time than initially anticipated, all members of the crew have indicated a certain degree of enjoyment of their underground collaboration, and satisfaction in the knowledge that they have accomplished something of major significance by making possible a long and productive future for this historic building.

“It was the nicest group I’ve ever worked with. It was really fun,”  Stancioff noted.

The crew standing outside a now-much-sturdier building.

Båtnes-Pederson noted that he was pleased to spend one of his last remaining days in this country contributing to the future of a Maine community by crawling around in the dirt underneath a building.

The board of the Chesterville Center Union Meeting House welcomes any contributions of time or money to their efforts to make the building available for use by the people of Chesterville for community purposes. Anticipated uses include concerts, lectures, discussions, weddings, and other events. For more information, call Carolyn at 778-3767 or Cyndy at 778-3513.

 – Submitted by Cyndy Stancioff

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