FARMINGDALE — A resident is raising alarms about work done recently on Northern Avenue, saying it was a shoddy job that’s also created road safety hazards.

But town officials disagree and say the contractor who performed the work fulfilled the contract requirements.

Resident Jeff Ellis raised the issue at last week’s Board of Selectmen meeting, saying he believed the work was incomplete. Since the Sept. 19 meeting, however, Buckfield-based contractors D&D Excavating Inc. finished what they were contracted to do, according to Road Commissioner Steve Stratton.

The contract to dig ditches and replace culverts on Northern Avenue, Blaine Road and Peacock Road, on a bid of $76,362, was awarded Aug. 22.

While Stratton has said the work is done, Ellis said last week only a small portion of it had been done properly. He said all growth in ditches along a 4-mile stretch of Northern Avenue should have been — and was not — eliminated, in accordance with the contract. Further, Ellis believes, some of the work also eliminated some of the road’s shoulder, causing a safety hazard.

“Basically, they have to re-ditch the whole of Northern Avenue, as far as I’m concerned,” he said at the meeting. “Probably less than 10 to 15 percent has been done correctly.”

Ellis, who lives on Bernard Lane, off Northern Avenue, said in an interview Wednesday that some areas of the road are not ditched at all, while a stretch of Northern Avenue between Choate Lane to Rutabeggar Lane is ditched in a manner that backs up water onto a resident’s property.

He classified most of it as “shoulder work” — extending the side of the road where cars can stop for emergencies — rather than ditching to keep water away from residents’ properties and the roadway.

The contract, obtained from the Town Office, calls for removing “anything growing in the ditch line.”

Ellis said the guideline was vague and referenced a mature tree growing around a culvert at 615 Northern Ave. that should be removed, per the contract. He said the ditches fill with sand from the road’s shoulders and plant growth, reducing their effectiveness.

“We hired this person … to do a job, and the job is not being done,” Ellis said. “That’s my tax dollars.”

Stratton said during the meeting that removing all of the growth in the ditches would make them too deep to move water adequately. He also mentioned that the contractors were not hired to cut down trees, so the tree at 615 Northern Ave. was not coming down as part of this job.

Stratton declined to comment on Ellis’ complaints on Wednesday, and representatives from D&D Excavating did not respond to multiple attempts to obtain comment.

Jim Grant, chairman of the selectmen, said Wednesday that some ditches were not dug because the bottom of the ditch was already in line with the bottom of the culvert. That would cause a larger buildup of water before it would drain through the culvert, he said, and could cause erosion underneath it. Grant also noted that Stratton was elected by the town’s residents to be its expert on roadwork.

“I’m not going to run around in every ditch and double-check,” he said. “If I did that, it would be insulting to my road commissioner. I have no reason to doubt his decision. I’ve looked at it; the work looks neat.”

Grant said Wednesday that Ellis’ problem with the work stems from a “strict interpretation” of the contract, “meaning there’s no room for common sense.”

At last week’s meeting, Ellis referenced work being undertaken by the state on Litchfield Road in Farmingdale as an example of ditching that cleans up growth but does not go deeper than the current depth.

In response, Stratton said the state contractors had better equipment that the town’s contractor, who could not do that. Ellis said it was up to the contractor to have the proper equipment to do the job as laid out in the contract.

“Whether he has the equipment or not is immaterial,” Ellis said at the meeting. “He needs to do the job according to what we put out to bid.”

The pair continued to disagree with each other, growing increasingly upset. At the end of the discussion, Ellis demanded the contract be adhered to.

“I’ve talked until I’m blue in the face and gotten nothing out of this,” he said. “My tax dollars; that’s what it’s about.

“I don’t give a rat’s ass who the contractor is. I’ve got a statement from you saying this would be adhered to,” Ellis continued. “I’m here for my tax dollars, and I’m sick and tired of watching my tax dollars get thrown out the window.”

The contractor had not been paid for the work as of Tuesday, according to Assistant Town Clerk Natalie Jackson. Town Clerk Rose Webster said selectmen have the final say on whether the contractor gets paid, but “most of the time” it goes with Stratton’s recommendation.

Concern about the work was raised at the Sept. 5 board meeting, when selectmen commented about shoulders and driveways being “messed up.” At last week’s meeting, Stratton said that one driveway had been fixed since those complaints.

Ellis, the former constable in Farmingdale, said Wednesday the town should put standards for ditching in their contracts to avoid any differences in interpretation between town officials and contractors.

During last week’s meeting, Grant said Stratton had knowledge of the specifications and would step in if they were not met. Further, all selectmen’s concerns were to be routed to Stratton, who would address them with the contractor.

“I know that’s a lot of political B.S., but it’s the way things should be done,” Grant said. “We can’t been sticking our nose in Steve’s business.”

He said contractors have to meet all provisioned goals in the contract to receive full payment, adding that he will not sign a bill until Stratton assures him the job was done. There is a provision in the contract in which the town reserves the right to terminate the contract or substitute a contractor using money allocated for the job if the job is not done in accordance with the contract terms.

On Wednesday, Ellis also alleged that Grant, who lives on Northern Avenue, had fill removed from the ditches on his property, which he perceived as a conflict of interest. Grant said Wednesday that he did receive fill from D&D, as did 12 to 15 other Farmingdale residents.

He said none of the residents paid for the fill and it is standard practice for contractors to give fill to locals instead of trucking it a long distance. He said the fill was not advertised formally, saying that it was “more word of mouth.”

“It had no bearing on the awarding of the contract,” he said.

Also during last week’s meeting, Ellis underwent an interview for a seat on the town’s Sewer/Road Advisory Committee during an executive session. He said he was interested in joining the committee, which issues recommendations on roadwork contracts, to oversee better use of residents’ tax dollars.

He said in his interview Wednesday that his spat with Stratton was mentioned during the interview, but he did not say whether he thinks it hurt his chance of being appointed to the committee.

“I don’t have all the answers,” he said. “(But) I can tell when something is wrong.”

Selectwoman Nancy Frost said the disagreement with Stratton did not hurt Ellis’ chance to be on the committee, but she was concerned about Ellis raising his voice and not respecting other town officials.

“The (committee) is an advisory board. They just need to respect each other,” she said. “I just don’t want disrespect and raised voices at the meeting.”

There is a history of conflict and legal battles between the town and the Ellis family.

Jeff Ellis is the brother of Chris Ellis, owner of Farmingdale-based Ellis Construction. In 2016, Ellis Construction sued the town for not being awarded a contract for roadside mowing and sewer maintenance work, despite submitting the lowest bid. Town attorneys said that a separate suit by Ellis Construction against the town would have made a “very difficult” contractual relationship, calling them an adverse party. Maine Superior Court Justice William Stokes upheld the discretion of the selectmen to deny the bid, a decision that was affirmed by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in June.

In 2014, Chris Ellis and the town terminated a three-year plowing contract after only one year after complaints about the company’s work came in from residents and competing contractors.

The town does not have any contracts with Ellis Construction currently, according to Webster.

Jeff Ellis, who said he has helped with work for Chris Ellis and his other brother, Brad Ellis, a contractor who owns BHS Inc., but he said he would not favor any contractor if he were to be selected for the committee.

“It’s about bang for your buck,” he said.

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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