Piscataquis panel weighs salt-sand storage liability

Posted Aug. 25, 2010, at 11:48 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:37 a.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The Piscataquis County commissioners focused their attention Tuesday on two issues involving the storage of salt and sand.

The town of Atkinson wants the county to co-sign for property that contains the town’s sand and salt pile. In addition, after this year, the town of Willimantic no longer wants the county to use the town’s property for the storage of salt and sand destined for the Unorganized Territory.

The commissioners have been following up last year’s request from Atkinson town officials for help in securing the private land on which the town stores its sand and salt pile.

McCrillis Timberland LLC and Prentiss & Carlisle Co. Inc., which co-own the approximately 13 acres that contains Atkinson’s sand and salt pile, have offered to sell the town the land for $1,000 an acre plus costs, but only if the county also is on the deed.

The owners, who want to be held harmless from any present or future liabilities should they arise, worry that Atkinson residents may seek deorganization again — they have done so twice without success — and if it they are successful, the landowners feel the town’s liability could be questioned. Therefore, the owners would consider transferring the parcel only to both the town and Piscataquis County, or the county alone.

Atkinson officials suggested the county could purchase the land and lease it to the town.

The commissioners voted 2-1 last year to investigate whether a suitable contract could be crafted that would remove any liability from the county from anything in the past. To date, those attorney costs are being funded by the county.

Upon the recommendation of attorney David Gray on Tuesday, the commissioners agreed to have him check the status of the title and review the county and Atkinson’s current liability coverage regarding environmental damage.

“We’re being asked to do the town of Atkinson a favor. We’re willing to do that as long as it doesn’t create jeopardy for the rest of the county at large,” Commissioner Tom Lizotte said.

On the other related matter, Willimantic Selectman John Tatko placed the commissioners on notice that the town wanted the county’s contractor to stop using the town’s property after this year to store sand and salt for Elliotsville Township. He also asked the county for proof of insurance in relation to the liability of storing the salt and sand.

Tatko said the town had an agreement with the county’s contractor to store 200 yards of sand and salt but that amount was exceeded for two consecutive years. He said the town has the same liability concerns as the landowners of Atkinson’s sand and salt pile site.

“It definitely will behoove the county to find locations for the contractors of all the unorganized townships to store salt and sand because it’s going to be a continual problem,” Tatko said Tuesday.

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