NORRIDGEWOCK — The Board of Selectmen is continuing to discuss potential legal problems involving the Norridgewock Wastewater Treatment Facility.

At a meeting Wednesday night, Town Manager Michelle Flewelling said the Maine Municipal Association advised the town that operating the sewer department on an inadequate budget is not a violation of state law, and it is unlikely that inadequate funding would lead to a liability issue.

However, a malfunction of the sewer system, whether because of a lack of funding for repairs or another reason, could be a violation of law that subjects the town and officials to state fines, she said.

“The big piece of this for me is to make sure you all know that there are issues at the sewer plant,” Flewelling told the board. “The sewer commission has also been made aware. Nothing seems to be happening, and we want to make sure that the staff and myself, when these issues occur, are not held liable.”

The wastewater treatment facility, which is more than 20 years old, owed the town more than $99,000 as of Jan. 1 and continues to operate in the red. The money shortage is mainly a result of a lack of a recent sewer rate increase and lack of collection of payments, according to Flewelling, and means that if any of the aging equipment should break or malfunction, the facility could be in violation of state law without the money for repairs.

The state has the authority to charge $2,500 to $25,000 for each day that a violation exists at wastewater treatment plants.

“I don’t even know if liability is as much of a concern as stuff breaking, stuff spilling,” said Vice Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Matt Everett. “Stuff making its way to the river — I mean, that’s not acceptable.”

Earlier this month, the commission voted to approve spending $13,708 from its reserve account to repair a broken back-up pump that has been in disrepair since winter.

Everett made a motion that the board send a letter to the Sewer Commission asking that they come up with a plan for repairs and maintenance at the facility, but it was not seconded. Instead, the board informally asked Flewelling to draft such a letter.

“How does the rest of the board feel about a budget that doesn’t have maintenance in it and doesn’t even meet their operating expenses?” Everett asked. “If this was the airport, it would be a completely different story about a budget that doesn’t fly; but it’s the sewer, so it’s OK.”

Sewer commissioners are elected, and while the selectmen have no authority over them, Flewelling advised that the MMA said a change of town ordinance could make it possible for the selectmen to override commissioners’ decisions if they find a flaw in the board or if the town is in “dire circumstances.”

Currently, the facility is controlled solely by the commissioners, who meet on a quarterly schedule but in the past have had difficulty with achieving a quorum at meetings. Everett also pointed out recent public meeting minutes about commissioners’ meetings are unavailable.

Charlotte Curtis, who is both secretary for the commissioners and a selectwoman, acknowledged that repairs are needed at the sewer facility and said she has been moving for the last five weeks and as a result has not filed minutes with the Town Office.

“The members of the (sewer commission) have changed numerous times over the last few years,” she said. “To say that one board has been responsible for all the damage down at the sewer plant is not the right thing to say. We all recognize that there is work that needs to be done.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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