Foreclosure waived once more for rifle range

By Beth A. Birmingham | Dec 08, 2017
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Town Clerk Melissa Sukeforth, standing right, counts ballots at a special town meeting in Warren Dec. 6. Once again, residents voted to waive foreclosure on the former rifle range property on Route 90.

Warren — At a special town meeting Dec. 6, the 20-plus residents in attendance opted once again, by a vote of 17 to 5, to forgo foreclosure on the former rifle range on Route 90.

Following a workshop held Nov. 21 to discuss the options available, the Warren Board of Selectmen recommended seeking legal advice from town attorney Bill Kelly to review a draft proposal from the Department of Environmental Protection.

That proposal sought to maintain access to the property for remediation and asked the town to waive liability if it should decide to take back ownership of the property.

"His {Kelly's} position has not changed since 2013," Town Manager Bill Lawrence said, explaining that although the materials at the site are not listed as hazardous  in the state of Maine, the town attorney has concerns about the town's taking ownership of the property.

The warrant asked "to see if the town will authorize the treasurer to waive foreclosure of the tax lien for the year 2016 on the Steamship Navigation Co. property."

The property in question, located on Route 90, housed more than 27,000 tons of polyester fiber material originally brought in to create a berm to absorb bullets and the sound of gunfire at the proposed rifle range.

The project was started in 1997 by the company's principal owners, Randy and Kathy Dunican, of Greenwood -- who are unable to be found.

"For 22 years we've been kicking this can down the road," former Selectman Ed LaFlamme said. He said if DEP continues with the remediation, it will collect a 17 percent overhead charge for its participation in it ... "roughly $50,000, which would not go towards the cleanup."

He said he doesn't believe "DEP's heart is in it to clean it up," and said he would like to see the town take it over and apply for grants.

"Like others, I don't want to see any more of Warren's tax dollars going into it," LaFlamme said, adding, "I think if we wait for DEP to clean it up, I'm afraid we will have all passed away before that ever happens."

LaFlamme went on to say that even if the town doesn't finish the project, at least it will have been started.

In response to Doug Pope's concern about proper notification to the Dunicans, Lawrence said state law states that as long as notification has been sent to the "last known address" of the owner, the town is permitted to move forward with foreclosure.

Back taxes on the property amount to $3,169, according to Lawrence, and it is valued at $26,000 in its current condition.

"If that site was cleaned up, could it raise the value?" Lawrence asked. "Obviously."

Three options were proposed by DEP, according to Lawrence: do nothing, bury the material on-site, or have the town take back ownership of the site and remove as much of the exposed material as possible until available funds run dry.

The DEP has approximately $375,000 set aside for remediation of the site.

Many options have been researched and vetted over the last 15 years, with the end result that no one solution solved the problem, or any solution that did was too costly -- even figuring in the remediation funds available.

In October, Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. completed testing of the fiber material, and found it to be a viable source of energy. Lawrence said PERC remains an option for some remediation, as does Dragon Products in Thomaston.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@villagesoup.com.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Dec 08, 2017 15:19

An energy source and industries willing to remove and reuse sounds good to me. Stop talking endlessly and sign on the dotted line. A win -  win for everyone.



If you wish to comment, please login.