Selectmen hope Eversource continues to allow snow

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A field tour was taken of the inert debris hill in Gorham’s Public Works yard on Sept. 5: selectman Jean LeBlanc, left; DPW head Buddy Holmes; abutter Helen Beausejour; selectmen Adam White and Mike Waddell; 2 CMA engineers; interim town manager Mitch Berkowitz and code enforcement officer John Scarinza.  (Edith Tucker photo)

GORHAM — Select board chairman Mike Waddell announced at Monday evening’s meeting on Sept. 10 that he, and board members Judy LeBlanc and Adam White, had met in executive session at town hall after the previous Wednesday morning’s field tour of the DPW transfer station and town garage property, located adjacent to the Gorham Hydro Dam off Route 16.

Waddell explained that the board is trying to reach a mutually agreeable short- and long-term agreement with Eversource that would allow the town to continue to use the utility’s 50-foot-wide right-of-way to store snow on the Androscoggin River side of the “inert debris pile,” (dirt pile) as it has for nearly 35 years. Since 1985, snow cleared from highways and roads that’s laced with pollutants has been prohibited from being dumped into the Androscoggin River, according to DPW head Buddy Holmes.

If, however, it looks as though Eversource will only allow snow to be stored on the other side of that pile, then the board has committed itself to holding a public hearing, Waddell said.

Complicating the effort to find a place for the town to store snow is that a nearby body of water, apparently created over the years by DPW personnel performing their duties, is now considered to be a vernal pool that under state rules must be protected by a 100-foot buffer.

Vernal pools are generally defined as temporary pools of water that provide habitat for distinctive plants and animals. They are considered to be a distinctive type of wetland, usually without fish, allowing the safe development of natal amphibian and insect species that cannot survive competition or predation by fish.

Neighbors of the town Public Works property are concerned that changing the ways things have been done could harm the peace and tranquility they mostly enjoy. Although they do hear trucks and other equipment running at night following snowstorms, most of the year they overlook a wooded area.

The selectmen are concerned that the cost of removing the debris pile to make space for snow storage could be $300,000 or more. Hauling snow to other locations in town could cost more than using town-owned property, pushing up the tax rate.

The next selectmen’s meeting at which this topic likely will be discussed whose public session begins at 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 17. No action was taken at the board’s Sept. 10 meeting.

At the board’s Tuesday, Sept. 4, meeting the board opened up a dialog in which both the town manager and Holmes participated on developing a fair and equitable policy under which town residents as well as commercial and industrial businesses can cover their tire disposal costs at the transfer station without creating costly or cumbersome administrative procedures. “We need a simple, clear policy for everyone, written in black and white,” Holmes said.

General manager Brian Ruel of ProQuip, doing business at 515 Main Street, pointed out that the rental business had paid the town $29,000 in registration fees for 110 vehicles. Most of the tires that the business disposes are either recapped or sold back to the tire manufacturer, but Ruel argued that ProQuip should be able to dispose of its remaining tire at the transfer station for the cost of a surcharge and not the $3 per tire it now pays.

For some years residents paid $2 extra when they registered their cars and pickups, which allowed them to dispose of two tires. Presenting the previous year’s registration allowed residents to bring in two more tires. Marks were made of the state’s registration form to indicate that someone had “spent” their tire surcharge or fee.

Waddell recalled that the original policy was passed at a town meeting, which he later tracked down as passing in 1991, but discussed under articles 14, 15, and 16 in the 1990 town report. The 1991 and 1992 reports of the then-newly formed Androscoggin Valley Regional Refuge Disposal District also include relevant information, he said.

The important fact that is needed is how much it now costs the town to get rid of all the tires of whatever size it handles, Waddell explained. Due diligence has fallen away, apparently, and some businesses are bringing truckloads of tires to the transfer station.

The selectmen voted unanimously, 3 to 0, to allow DPW to use the previous policy of allowing disposal of two tires per registration, allowing for the current registration period and the immediate prior year, effective the week of Sept. 17. If any major changes are made, there will have to be town meeting action, Waddell reminded.

The board also voted unanimously, 3 to 0, to award the low bidder, Sonny Couture-Couture Construction Corp., the Ramano/NRCS Peabody Riverbank project at 121 Glen Road for a total price of $103,000. Although the two bids were discussed at its previous meeting, the board did designate the low bidder until Sept 4. The higher bid was submitted by Lee T. Corrigan, LLC., that bid $135,688.

The board also received retroactive emergency authorization from FEMA to repair three different sections of the White Birch Lane berm, heavily damaged in the Oct. 2017 storm nearly a year ago. Code enforcement officer John Scarinza said that the property owner has agreed sign an easement to allow the town access.

In response to an ad, bids were received for two of the three now-town-owned trailers in the Gateway Trailer Park off Route 2.

Interim town manager Mitch Berkowitz read the bids aloud. Michelle Nadeau and Joshua Forbush bid $552 on the green trailer at 12 Memory Lane, but Can Brooker of Canaan at $600 turned out to be the high bidder for the same trailer.

The board voted unanimously, 3 to 0, to sell the mobile homes to Booker for $600 and Johnson for $1,000.

Under the town’s terms, both trailers must either be renovated or removed by Oct. 1.

Berkowitz sought authorization to offer the third trailer for which there were no bids at no cost to the highest-dollar bidder.

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