December 15, 2018
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Culvert removal lands former Maine town official in hot water

A former Bremen and Damariscotta selectman and current Damariscotta resident has received a summons for felony theft after directing a contractor to remove a culvert from a neighbor’s driveway within the right-of-way of a town-owned road.

Damariscotta Police Chief Jason Warlick summoned Edwin Stelzer, 76, of Westview Road, July 12 on a Class C charge of theft by unauthorized taking or transfer. The charge is a felony because the cost to replace the culvert exceeds $1,000.

Stelzer appeared before the Damariscotta Board of Selectmen on July 5 to give his account of events. He said he has had a five-week, ongoing discussion with Town Manager Matt Lutkus and Road Commissioner Hugh Priebe.

According to Stelzer, he and five other property owners on Westview Road decided to pave their driveways and, after a bid process, contracted Discount Asphalt Paving, of Belmont. Before moving forward with the work, Stelzer said he contacted the town office to see if a permit was required to pave an existing driveway and was told it was not needed.

During the course of the work, Discount Asphalt Paving owner David Riley asked Stelzer about a culvert under a neighbor’s driveway. Stelzer said the culvert, which was within the town’s right-of-way, had failed, and he and Riley decided to remove the culvert.

Throughout his presentation, Stelzer said he knew the culvert was on town property.

Shortly after, Priebe contacted Riley and said the culvert was on town property and needed to be replaced, Stelzer said.

Stelzer told Priebe and Lutkus they were not to trespass on the neighbor’s property and instructed Riley to remove the culvert, Stelzer said. Part of the ditch was also filled.

Stelzer said he was representing his neighbor, who is an elderly woman.

After the selectmen’s meeting, Priebe and Jan Wiegman, an engineer with Wright-Pierce, visited the driveway July 12. In a letter to Priebe, Wiegman detailed his concerns about the elimination of the roadside ditch and culvert, which could cause the road “to deteriorate more rapidly than it otherwise would with the ditch and culvert in place.”

After receiving the summons, Stelzer and other residents of Westview Road attended the Wednesday, July 19, selectmen’s meeting to discuss the matter further.

Chair Robin Mayer said the selectmen and Lutkus had been advised not to address the topic due to the summons.

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