SKOWHEGAN — The owner of Maine 201 Antiques in Fairfield avoided going to jail this week for failing to clean up his property — which some have called a junkyard — but has been ordered to pay thousands of dollars in penalties and court and attorney fees in an ongoing lawsuit brought by the town of Fairfield.

Property owner Robert Dale still faces the possibility of being locked up next month after a “show cause” hearing in Skowhegan District Court scheduled for January, the town’s lawyer said Thursday.

The town got a judgment this week totaling $28,369. The town also filed three affidavits of noncompliance, “which is what the court directed us to do if he had not been in compliance,” town attorney William Lee said Thursday.

Dale, who was ordered in March to clean up debris and fix health and safety violations at his U.S. Route 201 property next to the Fairfield Antiques Mall, had until Nov. 15 to clean up the property.

If the property wasn’t cleaned up by then, Dale faced seven days in jail. The judge stayed enforcement of the jail sentence until Dec. 1, while setting the Nov. 15 deadline for compliance, which the town extended by a week.

The case now is set to be heard Jan. 8 in Skowhegan District Court “for one last chance to explain himself,” Lee, of Waterville, said Thursday.

Lee said once the affidavits were filed, the court was supposed to have set the matter for immediate hearing for Dale to show cause why he shouldn’t go to jail. Lee said that hearing is Jan. 8.

Lee said the town is going back to court “for him to show why he shouldn’t go to jail.”

“Underneath it all, of course, what the town wants is for him to do what he’s been ordered to do. That’s what we want,” he said.

The delay gives Dale additional time to do the cleanup work, which in the eyes of the Fairfield town manager has not been completed to the town’s satisfaction.

“The town is disappointed that more of an effort has not been made to bring the property into compliance with the town’s junkyard, land use and fire prevention ordinances,” Town Manager Joshua Reny said Thursday. “The town filed suit roughly one year ago only after well over a year of attempting to work with the property owner. Now, more than two years later, not much progress has been made.”

Dale had missed a June deadline for clearing the property of old furniture, tools, tires and other items that lay on the ground and blocked entrances and exits to a warehouse and retail store. A lot of old stuff accumulated on the ground and in trailers surrounding the antique store, including used furniture, piles of windows, tools and metal, since the town first took notice in September 2012.

Since cleanup efforts have begun, Dale has accumulated several tractor-trailers to store the items he wants to save. Some materials that were put on the roof of the sprawling building to “get them off the ground” remain on the roof.

“It is not cleaned up sufficiently and remains out of compliance with local ordinances,” Reny said, noting that the town’s fire chief and code enforcement officer visit Dale’s property weekly to encourage him to comply.

“Some progress has been made, but there is a long way to go,” he said. “We have also been made aware that some of the materials removed from his property are being relocated to other properties in Fairfield.

“In its entirety this is quite a challenging situation, but we must protect the public’s interest and see it through to the end.”

Dale’s attorney, Walter McKee, of Augusta, said he thinks his client never was in contempt of the court orders because he was making every effort to comply with the cleanup deadlines. He said Dale continues to work on the cleanup.

“There’s been significant additional efforts since the last time we were in court, but they suggested that it’s not been enough, and I gather that’s what we’ll go back to court on,” McKee said Thursday. “There’s no question that he will continue his cleanup efforts between now and then. I believe he is enough compliant so far that he should avoid jail with whatever additional efforts he takes between now and January.”

McKee said that because Dale has been ordered not to use the building for retail sales and he has incurred costs leasing equipment and trailers during the cleanup, he will have a hard time coming up with the money he has been ordered to pay in court fees this week.

“It’s going to be difficult,” he said. “They are going to have to pursue getting that money through the regular process of disclosure hearing to determine assets and eventually place a lien on the property. I gather (that’s) what the town will do next, and we’ll certainly push back on that. There’s no money to pay it. It’s just not possible under the current situation.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow


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