Camden reaches deal with one homeowner, seeks court warrant on second

By Stephen Betts | Oct 03, 2019
Source: File photo

Camden — Camden has reached a settlement with one homeowner, but will be seeking a court order to inspect another home to determine whether it complies with with the town's sewer ordinance.

Town attorney William Kelly was at the Knox County Court Thursday, Oct. 3, where hearings were scheduled to get warrants to enter the two properties.

Kelly said, however, that a resolution had been reached with one homeowner -- Joseph Keeler. The homeowner agreed to allow the inspection. In addition, the homeowner will pay the town's legal costs to enforce the ordinance in that case -- $1,250.

Keeler owns a residence on Union Street.

No agreement was reached, however, in the case of Monique Kandra-Bergman. Kelly said the Knox County Sheriff's Office has tried to serve a summons to the homeowner, but has been unsuccessful because the person has refused to come to the door when the process server went to the home.

The property is on Knowlton Street.

Kelly said he will now seek approval from the court to effect formal service of the summons by publication in the newspaper. He said that should take four to six weeks.

A court hearing will then be held at which the town will ask a judge to issue a warrant to allow the town to enter the home for the inspection. The inspections take about 15 minutes.

Paperwork filed by Kelly with the court states that penalties against Kandra-Bergman have accumulated to $28,700, based on a $100-per-day fine for 287 days. The town has sent multiple notices to the homeowner to allow the inspection.

That penalty could be waived if there is an agreement.

The purpose of the inspections is to ensure that sump pumps, basement drains and gutters are not channeling storm water into the sewer treatment system. During heavy storms and snow melt, storm water in the sewer lines can overflow wastewater treatment systems, and release sewage into Camden Harbor.

In August, the Camden Select Board authorized Wastewater Superintendent David Bolstridge and the town attorney to prosecute several property owners who had refused to allow inspections for possible infiltration of storm water into the sewer system in violation of the town's sewer use ordinance.

"The town is sending a strong message that it intends to enforce its sewer ordinance," Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell said in August. "The first step is allowing the town to do the inspections."

She emphasized that the wastewater department and the town have made every effort to contact property owners to schedule the inspections, and the civil lawsuits were the last resort.

Bolstridge announced at a July Select Board meeting that the town of Camden will face legal sanctions from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection if sewage overflows into the harbor continue.

He explained that despite progress over the past six years, the sewer system still has overflows at Sea Street and at the Bay View pump station during big rain events or snow melt. These overflows are monitored by DEP, which wants a closure date, at which point Camden's wastewater system will no longer have overflow violations. DEP is preparing an agreement with the town, which will set milestones for the town to achieve by certain dates. The agreement then becomes a court order called a "consent decree."

At the Aug. 6 Select Board meeting, Bolstridge explained that the town's effort to inspect every residential and commercial property connected to the sewer system began in the summer of 2015.

Courier Publications Assistant Editor Susan Mustapich contributed to this story.

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