HARPSWELL — Demolition of the Mitchell Field water tower is on hold while the town tests nearby land for lead contamination.

The town’s plan to demolish the tower also faces the growing possibility of a lawsuit from a local nonprofit that wants to save the tower on Harpswell Neck Road. Members of Friends of Mitchell Field are meeting with an attorney this week to discuss their options.

Dorothy Rosenberg, a member of the group, said last week that seeking litigation is not the preferred course of action, but her group is “extremely unhappy with the town’s unwillingness to compromise.”

The Board of Selectmen, meanwhile, on July 12 delayed a vote on approving a contract with a demolition company. Instead, selectmen voted to have Portland-based Ransom Consulting test soil samples for lead on a piece of land abutting the tower.

In a phone call last Wednesday, Rosenberg said the lawsuit would be about the town’s “unreasonable” rejection of her group’s 351-signature petition for a re-vote on the demolition of the water tower.

Rosenberg said there’s “no question” about whether the petition was valid.

In May, the selectmen rejected the petition from the group to save the tower. After Friends of Mitchell Field announced a Special Town Meeting for a re-vote, selectmen ruled such a meeting would be invalid on the advice of Town Attorney Amy Tchao.

On July 3, the group sent a letter to the Board of Selectmen and Town Administrator Kristi Eiane arguing that Tchao’s points about the validity were incorrect.

Tchao’s legal opinion, which is on the town website, says the warrant is invalid because selectmen’s refusal to act on the petition was justified because Town Meeting voted to demolish the water tower and “a re-vote on that question was not warranted.”

Friends of Mitchell Field was the only group to apply to lease the tower ahead of Town Meeting in March, and sought to use it as a cellular tower.

The group has argued that voters did not have all of the information about Friends of Mitchell Field or the tower when they voted to demolish the structure at Town Meeting.

At the July 12 meeting of the Harpswell Board of Selectmen, Rosenberg spoke about her time spent advocating to save the tower, and called the experience “deeply distressing.”

“I think there have been several actions taken by this board which are regrettable,” Rosenberg said. “I think calling a town meeting illegal prior to its even having taken place is very unfortunate and not really to be accepted.”

At the meeting, she also said “the only body” with the authority to determine whether the rejection of the group’s petition was valid is a court of law.

Before the tower is torn down, Ransom Consulting will collect six soil samples from the parcel of land adjacent to the water tower. The samples will be submitted to a laboratory for an analysis of lead levels, and results will be compared with previous samples.

Elizabeth Clemente can be contacted at 781-3661, ext. 100, or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: epclemente

Read this story in The Forecaster.

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