WATERVILLE — A resident of High Street has lodged complaints with the city about what she deems is a wrecker business located in a residential neighborhood against city codes, a claim the city refutes, saying no codes have been violated.

Jessica Laliberte says flatbed wreckers from Carroll’s Body Shop & Wrecker Service in Winslow park at an apartment building diagonally across the street from her home. The flatbed wreckers, driven by the apartment tenants, wake her and her elderly mother up at night when they come down the hill and brake, rev their engines, honk their horns and make beeping sounds when they back up. Laliberte, who works from home, says when she is on a conference call during the day, people on the call hear the wrecker noise. The flatbeds also load and unload vehicles, she said.

Laliberte says she wants the city to address the problems.

“Enforce the laws,” she said. “This is a residential neighborhood, and we’re listening to a wrecker business, really — that’s what it is.”

But the city’s code enforcement officer, Dan Bradstreet, and Carroll’s owner Mike Ouellette, say the men who drive the wreckers and live in the apartment building are on-call and respond to calls for service from there.

Ouellette said Tuesday that Laliberte initially complained about wreckers being parked on the street, blocking traffic. Laliberte approached the Planning Board, of which she is a former member, about the issue, which led to the City Council’s enacting rules in August prohibiting trucks weighing a certain number of pounds from parking on the street after 9 p.m.

The wrecker drivers now park the wreckers in the apartment building’s driveway.

Ouellette said that early on he received calls from police Chief Joseph Massey, Mayor Nick Isgro and city councilors  about the matter and made a number of changes in response to Laliberte’s complaints, including reducing the time two wreckers are at the apartment building at the same time. He rejected Laliberte’s complaint that they make a lot of noise.

“The two guys work for me, and maybe once or twice a month they might both be on call at the same time,” Ouellette said Tuesday. “The last three nights, we haven’t had one wrecker call after five o’clock. If they get five calls a week at night time, that’s a lot. She just doesn’t want trucks across the road from her.”

A wrecker is parked Wednesday in the back of an apartment house on High Street in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Ouellette said he feels as if he is being harassed by Laliberte, and if it continues, he may consider taking legal action.

“I talked to a lawyer,” he said. “If she just keeps pushing, I’m going to be looking into it.”

Laliberte said she and her mother have complained to city officials and Ouellette, but the issues continue. She called the police department in May because the wreckers were revving their engines, she said, and an officer called back more than an hour later and urged her to call when such noise is occurring.

The night before Thanksgiving, she called police again to report two wreckers — one was not from Carroll’s — were parked in the middle of High Street around 11 p.m. in violation of state law. The drivers were talking to each other and their trucks were blocking both the road and her driveway, she said, adding that a police officer called her back, but by that time, the wreckers had moved.

She said the issues have been going on about two years and she feels that she and her mother, who is 76 and has been paying taxes for many years, should not have to suffer the noise. Both their bedrooms are on the street side of the house, and the trucks wake them up every night, she said.

“I hear it, day in and day out, around the clock,” she said.

THE CITY’S RESPONSE

Bradstreet responded Wednesday in an email that he had not heard anything about the matter since September, when Laliberte sent him a complaint about the wreckers through City Councilor Rick Foss, R-Ward 5. Laliberte said she had reached out to Foss for help. He did not respond to a request from the Sentinel for comment. City Manager Michael Roy referred questions to Bradstreet.

Bradstreet included in his email to the Morning Sentinel a series of emails, one of which, dated Sept. 4, is from Foss to Roy. It includes a video from Laliberte showing a wrecker unloading a car on the street Sept. 3. He also attached an email from Laliberte saying it was the third time they had hauled a car there, unloaded it and worked on it.

Bradstreet responded to Foss in an email saying he had watched the video and “there’s no code enforcement violation being shown on the video. A wrecker service dropping off a vehicle at 5:00 in the afternoon, at a private residence, is simply not a violation of any code enforcement ordinance. Jessica has reported that this activity has occurred 3 times over a 5 week period. And, that it’s happened between 5-6 PM each time.  I fail to see how this meets any reasonable, objective definition of a business. Remember, I drove through this property less than 24 hours after this recording. There was one vehicle at the property, and it was registered (although not required to be) and was not in a state of disrepair.”

Bradstreet said he understands Laliberte and her mother are annoyed, “But that does not make this a code enforcement matter, or a violation of any code.”

A wrecker pulls onto High Street from its parking spot at a Waterville apartment building on Wednesday. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

He went on to say he takes the responsibility of his job and the consequences of his enforcement actions very seriously.

“Any implication by Jessica that I just ‘don’t care’ is, honestly, quite offensive. I’ve been to this property at least 6 times.  I’ve spoken to the owner of Carroll’s 3 times,” Bradstreet wrote. “It’s gotten to the point where I’m actually concerned that if I approach the owner of Carroll’s again, he may file for protection from harassment against the city.

“I’ve put a great deal of time into discussing, and explaining/defending Code Enforcement, and trying to make people understand that I have rules to follow. It would have been much easier for me to submit to Jessica’s demands and pursue Formal Enforcement Action by The City of Waterville against Carroll’s Auto Body and the owners of the High Street property. But, it would be wrong,” he continued, “And, we would lose if we went to court over it.”

Bradstreet wrote that a code enforcement officer cannot prevent residents from legally dropping off a vehicle at their residence.

“I can’t simply make up new rules because one, vocal household has a problem with their neighbor. As a courtesy to you, I will issue a formal ‘Informational Notice’ to the owners of Carroll’s, the owner of 60 High Street, and the tenants at the property. The notice will remind them that there is to be no automotive business activity at the residence on High Street. I’m not going to accuse them of performing business at the location, because they simply aren’t doing so at this time.”

Bradstreet had also responded to Laliberte’s complaints several weeks ago in an email, saying he had found no code violations regarding the wreckers.

A wrecker pulls away from an apartment building on High Street in Waterville on Wednesday. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“I do know that Carroll’s is a legitimate business located in Winslow,” it says. “It stands to reason that, like in many other circumstances, tow truck drivers would work from home during the pandemic, and would need quick access to their equipment in order to facilitate their quick response to emergency vehicle incidents.”

He wrote that if “anyone is parking in an unsafe manner, or creating a public nuisance, or unsafe situation with ATV use, then you should call the police.”

Contacted Tuesday, Chief Massey said there is a law that covers unreasonable noise, which is considered disorderly conduct. If someone reports unreasonable noise, the department tries to respond as promptly as it can, depending on what other calls officers are responding to. The department prioritizes calls, he said.

“We only know if people call us, and it’s very difficult to deal with noise issues because generally, when we get there, it’s over with,” he said.

Massey noted that his department has scaled back on calls for service, patrol operations and investigations because of the coronavirus pandemic and the need to limit contact with people. Police try to do as much work as possible by phone, he said.

“We think that the risk outweighs the response to some calls,” he said. “We still are going to respond to emergency calls.”

Meanwhile, Floyd White, who lives across the street from the Lalibertes, said Tuesday he knows they are experiencing issues with noise from the wreckers.

“It is quite annoying,” White said of the noise. “It doesn’t bother me as much as it does them because their bedrooms face the street and my bedroom is in back of the house. The wreckers are in and out of here, seven, eight, nine times a day.”

White said when the wreckers hit the storm drain in the street by his house, he knows it.

“It’s a really loud bang,” he said.

Laliberte, whose late father, Ron, was a city police chief, claims the wreckers have caused damage to the street itself. White said he is concerned about what long-term damage will result from the wreckers.

“The street’s going to get wrecked,” he said.

A wrecker, which has been parked at a nearby apartment building, drives Wednesday along High Street in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

White offered what he thinks could be a compromise to the noise problem, suggesting the wreckers approach the apartment building where the drivers live from the east, instead of coming from the west, down the hill on High Street, from Main Street.

That way, the wreckers would not strike the storm drain and would not have to apply the brakes on a hill, he said. He also suggested the wreckers park on the east side of the apartment building, away from the Laliberte home, as well as his house.

Laliberte said she reached out to Mayor-elect Jay Coelho for help because she felt no one was responding to her complaints.

Coelho said Wednesday that he is looking into the matter and contacted Bradstreet who, as the city’s code enforcement officer, has the final say.

But Coelho said residents shouldn’t have to live with noise from wreckers in a residential neighborhood, even if technically, no codes have been violated.

“If nobody’s running a business out of there, why are there trucks there?” he said.

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