Quarry quagmire spills over to MacDougal Park donations

By Stephen Betts | May 15, 2018
Photo by: Stephen Betts Rockland city councilors listen Monday night, May 14, to competing bids for the Engine Quarry off Old County Road. Pictured are, from left, Jake Barbour, Annie Higbee, Cathleen Dorr, Owen Dorr and (in foreground) Councilor Adam Ackor.

Rockland — Donations from two local businesses to create a walking trail at MacDougal Park are in limbo, as they became mired in the ongoing debate over what to do with the historic Engine Quarry.

The Rockland City Council voted 3-2 at its Monday night, May 14, meeting to indefinitely postpone accepting a donation of $7,500 from Jake Barbour for in-kind services to create the walking trial, and a $600 in-kind donation from Ferraiolo Construction.

The Parks Commission had urged the council to accept the donations.

The council voted otherwise, however, because the vote was on the same agenda as the issue of whether to sell the city's interest in the Engine Quarry to Barbour.

Later in the meeting, the council voted 4-1 to reject issuing a quitclaim deed to Barbour for the 14-acre parcel that includes the water-filled former limestone quarry.

Councilor Amelia Magjik called for holding off accepting the donations, saying she did not want the council's actions on both matters to be confused by the public as somehow being related.

Councilor Adam Ackor, who called for issuing the city's quitclaim deed to Barbour for the Engine Quarry, said the two issues have nothing to do with each other and the city should accept the donations.

He said the city is taking its votes in public and there is complete transparency, adding that the donation by Barbour will not influence the council about whom to sell its interests in Engine Quarry to,

"Frankly, I think it's insulting." Ackor said of not accepting the donations.

Magjik said she did not want to seem ungrateful and she appreciates the offers, but that she did not want the issues confused.

Mayor Valli Geiger and Councilor Lisa Westkaemper voted to indefinitely postpone accepting the donations. Councilor Ed Glaser and Ackor voted against the postponement.

The council spent nearly an hour Monday evening again discussing the Engine Quarry and the multiple offers. In addition to Barbour, Frederick Dodd of Sherborn, Mass., has offered to buy the city's interest in the land.

The city has solicited proposals for the land on multiple occasions since 2014, but has never followed through on a sale.

The city has owned the property since 1982, when Maine Drilling & Blasting Inc. failed to pay its property taxes. Maine Drilling had acquired the land in 1981 from the Rockland-Rockport Lime Co. Inc.

A letter from the city's attorney, Mary Costigan, said the title to the land is not clear. She advised the city that when the it oreclosed on the property in 1982, it included the description of a different property owned by the lime company on Front Street.

Barbour said that he believes he already has the property rights to the quarry, which his mother acquired in 1996. Costigan's opinion to the city questioned Barbour's ownership claim to the land.

Barbour has offered a 0.64-acre parcel he owns adjacent to the city landfill -- which is assessed by the city at $4,500 -- as well as a long, narrow 2-acre parcel off Rankin Street for a walking trail that is planned to stretch from the former MacDougal School property to city-owned land on Old County Road. The second parcel is assessed by the city at $5,200.

Barbour pointed out that the property he has offered to the city adjacent to the landfill has been used by the city during the past few winters for snow dumping and could be used when the city wants to build a new public works garage.

Barbour said he has no firm plans for the property, but that he could build a house or two. He said he would not use the quarry for dumping any materials and that the state and federal government would never let him do it anyway.

Dodd operates a business known as International Zoological Expeditions Inc. and has said he would stop illegal dumping, clean out the quarry, and make it available for those who wish to study a different and unique self-contained ecosystem.

Dodd has offered the city $20,000 for the property.

Dodd was not at Monday night's meeting because he recently had surgery, but Annie Higbee represented him at the session. She pointed out his long history of restoring quarries.  She said he would restore the Engine Quarry and open it to the public for kayaking, hiking and other recreational purposes.

After the council rejected selling its interest to Barbour, Magjik suggested that Barbour and Dodd meet and try to work out a compromise and then come before the council.

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