ROCKLAND, Maine — The city’s infamous 25-foot pile of dirt on Waldo Avenue was again a focal point of the council meeting Monday night.
Councilors voted to give the Littlefield Memorial Baptist Church until Aug. 10, 2009, to remove the pile.
But the vote was not without its own controversy.
“This is an 11-year-old problem that we’ve been dying to get rid of forever,” said Councilor Eric Hebert, who nonetheless voted against the Aug. 10 deadline. “Wintertime might be the best time to move it — but it might not be this winter.”
Mayor Deb McNeil, who lives near the dirt pile, was quick to disagree.
“I find it very disconcerting that this has not been handled in a more timely fashion,” she said. “I think it’s very disrespectful to the people who live across the street. It does affect your property values in the neighborhood and it does affect how people view living there.”
The issue surrounding the pile of dirt goes back to some 1999 shoreline preservation work the church did with help from the city, according to City Attorney Kevin Beal, who spoke to the Bangor Daily News last month. Waldo Avenue is close to Samoset Road, where an April 1996 landslide destroyed two homes.
The church and the city both wanted to avoid further erosion and began a slope-maintenance project that never was finished, Beal said.
While the project was unfinished, it did have one unmistakable and unwanted byproduct: the massive dirt pile next to the church.
“I think it’s time for that mountain to go away,” said Councilor Brian Harden at the meeting.
Councilor Elizabeth Dickerson agreed.
“I believe the people in that neighborhood have suffered long enough,” she said.
In other business, councilors were happy to put their mouths — but not their money — toward supporting the city’s application to become a “Main Street Maine” community. They voted unanimously for the application, but in an earlier meeting, councilors had voted against spending $20,000 for three years to partially fund a downtown manager position.
Main Street Maine is a Maine Development Foundation program that works to revitalize downtowns. Nine communities are now in the program, including Eastport, Skowhegan and Van Buren.
Harden said that there were a “couple good reasons” the council did not choose to make a financial contribution to the project.
“One is we don’t have any money,” he said. “The other is that our downtown is already a surviving downtown … and the downtown does benefit by what the city does for it every year.”
Lorain Francis of the Rockland Downtown Alliance said after the vote that it is a good idea for communities “to embrace the [Main Street Maine] program.”
“I’m pleased that the city is supporting us in in-kind financial ways,” she said. “We’re pleased for that support.”