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It looms over lower Main Street like a giant steel spider, but the ironwork for the new Shields Hardware Store is finally in place.

It's taken 10 years, enduring miles of red tape, numerous stops and starts, and a near-deadly cave-in of a support wall, but construction at Main and High Streets is under way.

Though some days the site is just as deserted as it was through most of the 1990's, Baxter Estates Village officials confirmed the project is continuing.

"Lower Main Street LLC (Shields) has committed to complete the building by Sept. 1," said Mayor James Neville at a June 4 meeting of the Baxter Estates Board of Trustees.

An agreement between Lower Main Street and the village negotiated by a previous administration calls for the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy by the Baxter building inspector on the finished building by Sept. 1 or Lower Main Street could be liable to financial penalties.

Discussion at the meeting centered around the extension of an expired permit for the Lower Main Street construction trailer parked on High Street. The trustees were split between appeasing Shields to help complete construction and hard-liners who supported no extension. Shields had asked for an Aug. 31 extension.

"I think we're in a state of total appeasement with respect to Shields," said Trustee John Maher. "This is a good place to draw the line."

"Why are we extending a trailer permit (to Aug. 31) for a building that must be completed by Sept. 1?" asked Trustee Charles Comer.

Fred Nicholson, a former trustee familiar with the project, said the trailer should be moved now. "The original deal was to put their trailer in the street until the steel went up, then move it to their property," he said. "Why should it sit on public property?"

Other board members and some residents supported the extension just to "get the building done."

Mayor Neville suggested the board split the difference by extending the permit until their July 10 meeting, at which time Shields must justify any further extension.

"Let's extend the permit to the July meeting," he said. "We'll require that Lower Main Street LLC come in here and make their case. If they don't show up, the permit lapses."

Striking a conciliatory tone, Neville called for balance in the board's approach. "We want to help them complete the job," he said, "but we don't want to abet a lackadaisical construction schedule."

"Nobody in Village Hall wants that area cleared-up more than me."


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