WHITEFIELD — Residents will decide Thursday night whether they want town officials to negotiate with the owner of the Clary Lake dam to buy the breached structure.

A special town meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at Whitefield Elementary School. Residents also will decide whether they want the town to carry over almost $5,000 in unused funding for attorney fees into the fiscal year starting in July.

The dam’s owner, Pleasant Pond Mill LLC, filed a petition with state Department of Environmental Protection at the beginning of April to release ownership of the dam.

Residents will be asked at the special meeting whether they want the selectmen to negotiate an agreement to accept ownership of the dam. Any deal still would go to the voters before it’s accepted.

The dam, which was damaged last year by Tropical Storm Irene, needs repairs and Pleasant Pond Mill LLC has not fixed it, citing an ongoing petition by property owners who want the lake’s water level raised and monitored.

The towns with land around the lake — Jefferson and Whitefield — were required by the petition process to hold meetings by the end of May to decide whether residents want the municipalities to own the dam. Residents in Jefferson voted not to own the dam at that town’s meeting last week.

Kathy Howatt, hydropower coordinator for the Department of Environmental Protection, said the department knows for certain that lakefront landowners in Jefferson weren’t notified before the petition was filed, contrary to the requirements of state law.

Howatt then alerted Paul Kelley, the manager of Pleasant Pond Mill LLC, about the problem in his petition after consulting with the Office of the Attorney General, according to the letter sent to Kelley. The department told Kelley his petition would be rejected if it’s not withdrawn.

“Because we know that to be the case, it just doesn’t seem right for us to let things to continue on,” Howatt said.

However, Kelley contends that department was premature in saying the petition doesn’t meet the requirements.

“Pleasant Pond thinks DEP is going well beyond the statute, and I think (Howatt is) assuming facts that aren’t in evidence and won’t be there for another few months,” Kelley said.

In an email sent to Howatt on Tuesday afternoon, Kelley informed her that Pleasant Pond Mill LLC plans to continue with the steps in the petition process, including filing a report at the end of the consultation period, near the end of September.

“Only at that time … should DEP be raising the specter of rejection of the petition,” Kelley wrote.

Pleasant Pond Mill LLC is also involved in a water level petition that lakefront property owners filed with the department over a year ago. A department spokeswoman had said previously the DEP will issue a water level order for Clary Lake regardless of the result of the ownership petition, but it’s unknown when the order will be issued.

George Fergusson, a lakefront property owner in Whitefield and spokesman for the water level petitioners, said he doesn’t know yet how he’ll vote Tuesday on the dam ownership question.

“I think it’s important for the town to shepherd this process through to a conclusion,” Fergusson said.

He said he doubts the residents will want to buy the dam, so the dam owners probably will have to negotiate with the Clary Lake Association — a group of almost 70 lakefront property owners and lake users, of which Fergusson is a member.

Negotiations between the Clary Lake Association and Pleasant Pond Mill LLC for the sale of the dam haven’t been successful in the past, according to both parties.

“Nobody else wants it,” Fergusson said. “I think it would be great if the town bought the dam — don’t get me wrong — but I don’t think they will.”

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
[email protected]

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