December 12, 2019
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Falling trees pose new threat at Maine mobile home park that still owes town for fresh water

Beth Brogan | BDN
Beth Brogan | BDN
A tree fell on this mobile home on Franklin Parkway, in the Bay Bridge Estates mobile home park, earlier this month.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — Months after tenants at the Bay Bridge Estates mobile home park organized and met with an attorney hoping to pursue legal action over a lack of safe drinking water, residents of the park continue to complain about unsafe conditions.

On March 14, a tree fell onto a single-wide mobile home on Franklin Parkway, displacing the elderly woman who lived there and leaving tenants concerned that their homes are also at risk, according Rodney Doray of Candy Lane. The tree, not cut into smaller pieces, remained near the home eight days later.

Doray is among the tenants who earlier this year formed a tenants association to demand Bay Bridge address a lack of water in the park. They consulted Kennebunk attorney Jim Clifford to pursue a possible class action lawsuit.

Clifford said Friday that he was still investigating a potential case.

Early in January, during a prolonged cold spell, residents of Bay Bridge informed Brunswick officials that they had no water. Town attorney Stephen Langsdorf and municipal administrators declared the lack of water a “public health issue” and ordered Bay Bridge to correct the situation.

When town officials deemed that response inadequate, Town Manager John Eldridge ordered water to be trucked to the mobile home park at Bay Bridge’s expense.

Kevin McCarthy, who represents the park’s owners, The Liberty Group, said Wednesday that the two existing wells were enough to meet regular customer demands, until the cold spell.

“But the problem was we had tenants just running water,” McCarthy said. “In many cases, there were just frozen pipes, so there was no water. But usage in the park almost doubled [at that time], and the wells couldn’t recover quickly. As a result, we had to limit outflow.”

Neither McCarthy or Clifford returned calls Thursday and Friday.

In mid-January, residents also began complaining of sewage backing up into bathtubs and varying water pressure — including periods of no water.

Brunswick began trucking water into the park’s holding tank at a cost of about $1,000 a day, with Bay Bridge agreeing to reimburse the town.

According to Eldridge, McCarthy wrote in a March 14 email that the water deliveries had been suspended “because they’ve become unnecessary,” and that McCarthy assured him that a bill of nearly $50,000 to reimburse the town for the water delivery was “being processed” and would be paid by the end of March.

Should the payment not be received, Eldridge said the town would pursue payment through legal channels.

McCarthy said Bay Bridge expected a third well — an older well that was capped years ago and being reopened — to be in use by the last week in January.

But Eldridge said Thursday that the well is still not in use, although he said McCarthy told him on Wednesday that the Environmental Protection Agency and Maine Drinking Water Program had confirmed lead levels in the water are acceptable.

Emerson said the town wants “absolute assurance” that before the third well is put in use, the water is safe. He said that if trees are making homes unsafe at Bay Bridge Estates, then “much like the water situation, the town is committed to making sure people are being treated fairly.”

“Unfortunately, we haven’t been in very good communication with Bay Bridge,” Emerson said.

On Thursday, Emerson and Eldridge both said they’d heard nothing about the tree falling on a residence earlier this month.

But Emerson recalled one falling on a mobile home during a storm in October, destroying a man’s home.

“We [Brunswick firefighters] pulled that guy out,” he said. “He slept through the storm. He wasn’t hurt, but the tree went right down through the front door and his second bedroom.”

“We’re aware of some situations there,” Eldridge said. “We’re much more sensitive to them and we’ll look into them. But people need to call us. Posting on Facebook isn’t going to notify us.”

Robert Driscoll of Driscoll Tree Services said Friday that the company has worked for Bay Bridge for decades, that each year they pay between $30,000 and $40,000 for tree work, and that they’re current in their payments.

Last year, he said, Driscoll removed about 40 trees on Bay Bridge Road and Primrose Lane, and this year he personally walked through the park with a member of Bay Bridge management to mark the trees considered an imminent danger. All but six to 10 of them have been cut, he said.

“It’s not like they’re not on top of it,” Driscoll said. “We’ve been cutting and cutting and cutting, but when you have these big storms … we started getting all that snow in December and I told the manager there that we can’t really do anything over the winter.”

But Doray said a tree on his property was threatening to come down during the next strong wind, so he sent Bay Bridge a letter earlier this month threatening to withhold his lot rent as of April 1 to begin saving up to have a tree on his lot removed.

He voiced concern that if the tree fell, it was poised to fall directly onto the bedroom occupied by his girlfriend’s daughter.

On Tuesday, Driscoll took the tree down, he said.

Meanwhile, lot rent is set to increase on April 1 by about $15 monthly.

“It was supposed to go up on Jan, 1, but without water, and out of the kindness of their hearts, they delayed it,” Doray said. “Like $45 is going to reimburse us for what we’ve spent [on damages].”

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