ROME — Even though a conflict over access to a cemetery was settled with a stipulated order in August, the resident still asserts that the town discriminated against him and his wife because they are both disabled.

The dispute started in the fall of 2015 when the town alleged that Peter Fotter placed debris and fill in the way of a path to a cemetery. The site, Tuttle Cemetery, is accessible by traveling down Fotter’s driveway at 94 Oak Ridge and onto a path through brush and forest on his property.

The town says that Fotter placed fill there to purposely block the right-of-way for visitors and maintenance vehicles, but Fotter says he asked maintenance workers to give him some fill so he could improve the path and was unable to spread it out because his wife, Tammy, got sick. Peter said he believes the town is discriminating against him and his wife because they are disabled and “easy targets.”

Tammy Fotter has brain bleeds, or hemorrhages, which is a type of stroke caused by an artery in the brain bursting. An artery has burst twice in the past three years, Peter Fotter said, giving her traumatic brain injuries.

He is a disabled veteran with arthritis and multiple joint inflammatory disorders.

Last September, shortly after Fotter asked state transportation workers working near his house if they could drop some fill off on the path, Tammy suffered another hemorrhage and was transported by LifeFlight helicopter to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

She wasn’t expected to live but she did, Fotter said, and he’s been busy taking care of her. This second injury has impaired her ability to walk, talk and remember things.

Fotter said the town should have known about that situation because some town workers have been by his house and he’s often asked about his wife when he goes to the Town Office.

“This was just over a pile of dirt that was meant to make the road better,” he said.

Fotter said the town didn’t sufficiently try to contact him about the issue and that he was surprised by the lawsuit over what he says is a small incident that he would have cleared up right away, once he got his wife settled.

According to the town, debris and fill was placed in the driveway last fall, blocking the way for maintenance vehicles and making it difficult to access by foot. An affidavit signed by Michael Proctor, the cemetery sexton, says that he was unable to bring maintenance equipment down the path as it was blocked by a “mound of dirt and gravel fill,” so he had to carry what hand tools he could down to the site.

After reportedly contacting Peter multiple times via multiple avenues and getting no response, the town brought a lawsuit against the Fotters, citing the right-of-way and its federal requirement to maintain the cemetery.

“At no point in time did he come to the table and try to defend himself,” said Selectman Richard LaBelle in response to Peter’s remarks. He said the responsibility of maintaining access to the cemetery lay on the Fotters, not on the town.

LaBelle also said that the Board of Selectmen were not made aware of the Fotters’ situation until they entered litigation with lawyers.

When asked if he had heard about their situation around town, LaBelle said he wouldn’t comment and that people hear a lot of things around town.

“I don’t think that’s the way a town should be conducted,” he said.

The lawsuit was settled outside of court by a mediator and the lawyers for the Fotters and the town signed a stipulated order in which the Fotters agreed to not block the right-of-way or else face a civil penalty. They also paid the $508 court costs for the town. The fill was removed the day after they reached an agreement, on July 29.

In 1994, when Fotter bought the property, he created the path that leads to the cemetery, he said, which was all brush and hard to get through before.

Fotter also said that the town isn’t maintaining the cemetery, which is a federal offense because it is the burial site for some veterans, going as far back as the Revolutionary War.

“It’s just neglected,” he said on Tuesday during a visit to the site.

LaBelle rejected that allegation and said the town maintains its nine cemeteries well.

Madeline St. Amour – 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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