PALERMO — For the people who run the local community center, all’s well that ends well. And it turns out, that end is an actual well.

In order to water their community gardens, the Palermo Community Center recently dug its own well. Pine State Drilling struck water 400 feet down two weeks ago.

Said Connie Bellet, president of the center, “After five months of hauling jugs of water, this is an immense relief.”

So too is it a relief for Phil Frizzell, chief financial officer of the nonprofit community center run by the Living Communities Foundation. The 80-year-old had been hauling 25 gallons of water daily from the spigot at the Town Office in Windsor to water the garden, which helps feed 50 local families, because the produce goes to the local food pantry.

The community gardens have been at the center of a long-running dispute between the center and the nearby Malcolm Glidden American Legion Post 163, the organization that owns the land on which the garden grows and that has been leasing it to the center.

Oddly enough, Frizzell is a Legion member who has paid his dues for life, and Bellet was president of the local Legion auxiliary. They lease the land from the Legion post for their mobile home — and the Palermo Community Garden — on Turner Ridge Road for $1 a year. The lease is paid through 2020, when it expires. Together, the couple manage the garden that was started 18 years ago, providing organic food for those local families in need. They also run a number of community services and events at the gardens and in the community center. And they have a mobile home there with a storage shed.


The garden, though, seems to be a bone of contention. And gardens don’t do well without water.

Apparently the land was donated to both entities — the center and the Legion — by its former owner, John Potter, who is now dead. The lease, effective in 1999, allowed the couple to put a mobile home and storage shed on the Legion property.

Then came the garden.

In 2011 the Legion mounted an offensive against the center and its garden and fought to have the lease declared unenforceable in court, but the offensive failed. Belfast District Court Judge Patricia G. Worth ruled in favor of Bellet and Frizzell, finding that the lease is not void or unenforceable, and that the Legion had “failed to demonstrate that the lease is unconscionable” — “unconscionable” apparently meaning, in this context, “not right” or “unreasonable.”

In 2013 the Legion mounted another challenge, this time sending Bellet and Frizzell a letter saying the legionnaires planned to clear the garden site to build a parking lot. The letter instructed them to remove the shed, gardens and other property before construction was to begin.

Matt Evans, the lawyer leading the charge for the Legion at the time, said the lease authorized the couple to have only the mobile home, a storage shed, room for mobile home additions and space for entering and exiting. He said the lease does not authorize the several storage sheds and garden.


Four years later, construction of the parking lot has not begun, and the garden grows in its 18th year, but not without problems to overcome.

This past June, Bellet and Frizzell claimed the Legion had laid siege to the garden, refusing to provide them with water, even though, according to the lease, the Legion is required to provide water, power and septic connections.

Until then, a nearby neighbor involved with the center’s foundation hooked Bellet and Frizzell up to his well, but that house had been sold and the new owners turned the water off. Frizzell, who has claimed the Legion has been trying to destroy the garden for over a decade, said the center was forced to go back to the Legion for water.

The Legion was given 30 days’ notice to hook the property up to a water source, but it failed to do so by the time the 30 days were up on June 4. Bellet said she thought the Legion was responsible for providing water, but was told they would face a lawsuit if they tried to dig a connection to the Legion’s well. The new well gives Bellet’s home and the garden plenty of water, and also of it, “gets us free of the Legion.”

Representatives from the Legion could not be reached Sunday.

Instead, the Legion fired off a letter to Bellet and Frizzell’s legal counsel, acceding to the demand to be hooked up to the Legion’s well but with one caveat: The water could not be used for the garden.


In June, during the days of 90-degree heat, Frizzell was sweating bullets, hauling water and grousing that the Legion was getting its wish and that it was killing the garden. But the center and the garden persevered.

Said Bellet: “The best option was to drill our own well for the community center and our domicile. That way everybody is happy.”

Unlike the garden and its several sheds, and the mobile home and its shed, the well, Bellet said, is on community center land.

All that remains now, according to Bellet, is for a Habitat for Humanity group in Belfast to build an access ramp to the food pantry.

Meg Klingelhofer, executive director of the Waldo County Habitat for Humanity, said her organizatiom got involved in building the ramp because it wanted to show the community it does more than just build houses. It had been trying to make it out to the Palermo food pantry to build the ramp the weekend of Oct. 7, but Habitat volunteers were just coming off another project, so the ramp had to wait. On Saturday, no one was around at the site of the gardens or the food pantry.

“What’s exciting about this is the chance to have an impact with larger numbers of people in the community,” she said.


A house, once finished, benefits a single family, while updating access to the food pantry will have a more widespread benefit to those in need in the area.

“This is an ideal way to work with Palermo,” she said.

And, according to the lease, there is a space allowance for entering and exiting.

As for the garden, it still grows, and now water is at hand.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

Twitter: @colinoellis


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: