Warren approves money for legal expenses, demolishing school
Warren — Warren residents at a special town meeting approved transferring money from the fund balance to demolish the old brick school and to cover anticipated legal expenses concerning the proposed methadone clinic.
Approximately 30 citizens attended the one-hour meeting on Sept. 6.
There was no discussion on whether the town should authorize $60,000 from the fund balance to cover anticipated legal expenses to the end of the year and the article passed.
As of Jan. 1, the fund balance totaled $943,964.
Article 3, to authorize the treasurer to waive foreclosure of the tax lien for the year 2012 on the Steamship Navigation Company property, also passed without discussion.
The town has held special town meetings to waive foreclosure since 1999 so the town will not inherit the costly cleanup project.
There was concern surrounding the cost of demolishing the "Brick School" at 44 School St. Residents who spoke in opposition to the funding believed the issue could be resolved at a later date to save the town money this year. Select Board member Michael York said the cost of demolition is likely to become more expensive if the town postpones action.
The work to remove asbestos in the building and the demolition will cost the town a total of $47,300. The asbestos will be removed by New Meadows Abatement Inc. of West Bath for $20,400. The demolition bid was awarded to Doug Fales of Thomaston for $26,900.
The demolition is expected to begin "as soon as possible," said York.
The building material can be buried on site, removed and shipped to a landfill, or recycled as material for construction projects. Town Manager Grant Watmough said the Select Board has yet to make a decision about how the material will be disposed.
One resident questioned if there was language in the contract with the demolisher to state that the contractor is responsible and liable for hazardous waste in perpetuity — specifically the asbestos material.
"You don't want a situation where five years later we're [Warren] liable because it was our waste," she said.
Watmough said the town attorney reviewed the contract and had no concerns, and added that New Meadows Inc. is "a reputable company."
Some residents were concerned the demolition of the school could cause problems with litigation with CRC Health Group.
CRC's federal lawsuit against the town over the blocking of the methadone clinic project is still active. The town has filed a motion in the case seeking to enforce the settlement agreement. The town had previously agreed to settle the case with CRC for $320,000, but the point of contention was a memorandum of agreement signed at the time stating the town would grant the company the needed permits.
The planning board approved the project, but it is now in appeal and the company is still seeking approval from the Warren Sanitary District. The board of appeals is set to meet Tuesday, Sept. 11 with abutting property owners of the proposed clinic on Route 1.
Oral arguments are scheduled to be heard at the U.S. District Court in Portland Sept. 17 about whether Warren has met criteria of the memorandum. "If the court rules that we have, everything behind us is over with," Watmough said. "In that case I don't believe we have much of any liability."
Watmough said if the court rules the town has not met requirements and if CRC Health Group decides to re-open the case, then the issue of the purchase and sales agreement with Robert Emery not being completed becomes an issue. "That's a potential liability," he said.
Another resident said the town attorney said if the building is torn down, the town holds no liability.
An ordinance titled "Town of Warren Property Assessed Clean Energy Ordinance," known as PACE, was not enacted. The ordinance was described by Select Board Chairman Doug Pope as a legal necessity to apply for a loan through Efficiency Maine. Citizens said they could access financing to improve the energy efficiency of their homes without a town ordinance, making it unnecessary. The opposing vote to the ordinance was met with applause.
Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at JLaaka@courierpublicationsllc.com.