SKOWHEGAN — The town of Fairfield has asked a district court judge to sentence Robert Dale, the owner of an antiques store on U.S. Route 201, to a full day in jail in an effort to force him to finish cleaning up the junk on his property.

At a show-cause hearing Monday in Skowhegan District Court, Fairfield town attorney Bill Lee said that despite the progress Dale has made cleaning up his property, he needed prodding to complete the job.

The town has been pressuring Dale for more than two years to come into compliance with its land use and junkyard ordinances and resolve outstanding safety issues. Dale was issued a court order in March 2014 to clean up the property and faced the possibility of a seven-day jail sentence when he missed a September 2014 deadline to finish the project.

In March, the town agreed to give Dale until June to finish the cleanup after seeing progress at the property. The town has been awarded almost $29,000 in fines and fees in the case.

“The common theme here is that nothing is done unless there is some pressure on him,” Lee said in court.

Dale also is facing a lawsuit in Hallowell, where city councilors recently voted to pursue a court order to force him to clean up scrap lumber, metal, furniture and other items stored on the roof and outside of Brass and Friends, a downtown antiques store he owns.

With the Fairfield case, Lee has asked Judge Andrew Benson to sentence Dale to 24 hours in jail, then give him an additional 60 days to complete the clean-up.

“There are still deficiencies, we do not have compliance, and we are not going to get compliance without some coercive order,” said Lee, who expected to see a court order issued by week’s end.

The property surrounding Dale’s Maine 201 Antiques used to be carpeted with wooden and metal furniture, farm tools, windows and doors and assorted metal and glass. The property, which has been declared an illegal junkyard, was determined to have fire and safety violations by the town.

But Dale has made headway in the last six months, removing most of the items from the front of his building and storing them in at least seven large trailers stored on the property. He also resolved a number of fire safety violations in the interior of the building.

Dale’s attorney, Walter McKee, said that considering the “overwhelming progress” made at the property in the last 12 months, the court shouldn’t bring a sentence down on his client. Dale also had made three $250 payments to the town for his fines over the last three months on top of the $2,000 he paid in March, McKee said.

“He is not someone who is thumbing his nose at the court,” McKee said. “He is diligently trying to come into compliance.”

An alternative resolution proposed by Judge Benson would increase and postpone indefinitely the jail time for the contempt charge, and Dale would be given 60 days to come into compliance. McKee said that approach is acceptable.

On Monday, Fairfield code enforcement officer Nicole Martin testified that there were still violations at the property, including items and debris piled at the back of the building that are not masked by a fence; a back fire exit that is not clear and has combustible materials, including fiberglass insulation, stored near it; and remaining debris on the front of the building. She said noticeable progress had been made between late May and June 19. Martin and Fire Chief Duane Bickford regularly check in on Dale’s property.

Martin also said Dale had been helping his mother and his stepfather clean out a house they bought on Center Street during the time when he was expected to be working on his own property.

Bickford testified that when he went to the property last week, Dale wouldn’t allow him inside the store, which previously was found to be in compliance with fire safety codes.

In his testimony, Dale said he prioritized clearing puckerbrush, putting items down on pallets in the back of his store and getting ready to put up a privacy fence along the property line between himself and his neighbors. He also said that when Bickford asked him if he could go into the store, he told the fire chief that it wasn’t open, because he didn’t know whether Bickford was asking as a town official or a customer.

If the town wanted him to prioritize cleanup activities, it should give him a list to follow, Dale said. He estimated it would take him two or three weeks to finish the project.

“It’s all a matter of time,” he said. “I’m one person, and I have no means and I’m struggling to do the best I can. I spend no less than 10 hours a day on this.”

He admitted that he had continued to buy items while he was trying to come into compliance, but said he couldn’t recall how much he had spent. So far, the cleanup had cost him $15,000, most of which he had borrowed from his family, Dale said. He was helping clean the house on Center Street to pay back that debt, he said.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

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