By Kathy Onorato
George Fergusson, left, of the Clary Lake Association and Tom Hayes, Whitefield’s assessors’ agent speak to the Whitefield Board of Selectmen Aug. 12. (Kathy Onorato photo)
The Whitefield Board of Selectmen voted Aug. 12 to write a letter to the Maine Attorney General’s Office expressing concern about a private company’s compliance with an order regarding the dam and water level at Clary Lake.
The Department of Environmental Protection issued a water level order in January to Pleasant Pond Mill LLC, the owner of the Clary Lake dam, requiring the company to repair the dam and maintain minimum downstream flows, among other items.
Several deadlines outlined in the order have passed, and the DEP and Pleasant Pond have continued an exchange regarding disagreements about requirements in the order, process, and the applicability of state law.
Addressing the board, George Fergusson, of the Clary Lake Association, said Paul Kelly, manager of Pleasant Pond Mill LLC, has done nothing to comply with the water level order and asked the selectmen to exhort the state to act quickly to pursue enforcement action.
“We don’t want them to think they can sit around and do nothing,” Fergusson said. “We need to remind the state we are interested and concerned.”
In a phone interview August 13, Kelly said he asked Whitefield’s town clerk Aaron Miller to notify him when his company was going to be discussed during a selectmen’s meeting but was not made aware that Fergusson would be asking the board to take action Aug. 12.
“My company has not been notified by DEP that it’s not in compliance with the water-lever order,” Kelly said.
The three board members present, Dennis Merrill, Sue McKeen, and Lester Sheaffer, all voted in favor of sending the letter.
“CC everyone and their brother,” Sheaffer said.
Fergusson said the Clary Lake Association is concerned about the low water volume and is angry and upset at what he said is the lack of compliance with the order.
Kelley appealed the water-level order in Lincoln County Superior Court in February. According to Fergusson, the parties involved in the appeal are currently involved in the mediation process.
“I don’t expect anything to come from mediation,” Fergusson told selectmen.
In an effort to make waterfront valuations more equitable for both the taxpayers and the town, selectmen have begun looking into different ways to valuate properties on the water.
Currently the town has a flat adjustment of $10,000 for lake frontage and a $5,000 adjustment for river frontage. The current system does not take into consideration the size, depth, or quality of the lot.
Tom Hayes, the town’s assessing agent, presented selectmen with two other options to consider.
The front footage method simply would assess a dollar amount for the total number of feet of frontage. With this method, different levels of water quality could be established.
Establishing waterfront lots is another method being discussed. The value is figured with the understanding that the water side of the land is more valuable than portions further inland.
A general distance of depth in feet is chosen and is multiplied by the shoreline footage, which gives the total acreage. That acreage is multiplied by a water base lot value to determine the lot’s value.
Hayes said adjustments are made on a scale with a declining percentage of value for lots of sizes smaller or larger than the lot size of a predetermined lot. According to Hayes, most Maine towns use the waterfront lot method of valuating.
“This has lots of variables, it gets complicated,” said Sheaffer. “The front footage method is cleaner.”
The board agreed more discussion and research was needed before a decision could be made on which method to use. A suggestion was made to form a citizens committee to seek community input on the proposed new methods.
“We need to keep it on the burner,” Merrill said.