NORRIDGEWOCK — The Norridgewock Sewer Commission voted Tuesday night to approve spending for repairs related to a broken valve at the Norridgewock Wastewater Treatment Facility during an emergency meeting.

The meeting was the second emergency session the commissioners have held in the last two months to fix broken equipment.

It also follows a recent attack on Town Manager Michelle Flewelling at a regular meeting in which the vice chairman of the commissioners tried to hold an illegal executive session to discuss her performance.

There were no signs of conflict at Tuesday’s meeting — which was over in a half-hour — and was called in response to a broken valve at the wastewater plant.

Workers at the wastewater treatment plant discovered that the valve in one of the sewer containment tanks was broken last week and have plugged the valve to ensure that excess sewage is not leaking, said Kristina Gossman, chairwoman of the sewer commissioners.

The commissioners approved spending $7,950 on Tuesday to drain the containment tank so that the valve can be examined and repaired. Gossman said the cost of replacing the valve should be minimal and not something the commissioners will have to vote on.

The reason for the emergency meeting was related to the cost of draining the containment tank. Town Manager Michelle Flewelling, who is also the wastewater treatment plant supervisor, is authorized to approve spending for items costing only up to $5,000.

Gossman said the money for the repairs was an item that had to be approved before the board’s next regular meeting on Oct. 14.

“It needs to be addressed,” she said. “They’ve been making it work for one week, and that’s long enough.”

Tuesday’s meeting was the second emergency meeting the commissioners have called in the last two months. In August commissioners voted to spend $13,708 from the department’s reserve account to fix a broken backup pump. They authorized drawing the money to pay for both fixes from the sewer department’s reserve account, which had a balance of $284,444 as of Tuesday.

The recent need for repairs as well as an ongoing debt the department has to the town have been sources of conflict between some members of the board and Flewelling.

At a meeting in August, Vice Chairman Ron Currier made a motion that Flewelling not be allowed to speak after she tried to make the board aware of potential fines the Department of Environmental Protection could impose if the sewer plant were found in violation because of breakdowns or a lack of maintenance.

Currier also tried to hold an illegal executive session at the last regular meeting of the commissioners in order to discuss Flewelling’s performance as town manager.

The motion for the session was made in the midst of a discussion about long-term plans for maintenance at the sewer facility. It did not pass, but Currier insisted on discussing Flewelling’s performance, accusing her of bringing an “attitude” to commissioners meetings and not being honest with commissioners about the sewer department’s financials.

Tuesday’s meeting was short — lasting just a half-hour — and there were no signs of conflict between commissioners and the town manager.

Flewelling said the emergency meeting emphasized the need for a long-term plan.

“Sometimes things just break,” she said. “Sometimes they wear out, but I think it helps reiterate the fact that one of the things we’ve been talking about is some of it can be kind of a domino effect. If one piece of equipment goes, then so does the next. That kind of seems where it’s at, and it’s kind of discouraging. It seems like every time we turn around it’s something new.”

Gossman said Tuesday that she is still in the process of getting estimates of how much it would cost to have a professional review of the sewer plant done so a maintenance plan can be developed.

She said she plans to present those numbers at the commissioners’ next regular meeting, which will be held October 14.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


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