September 26, 2018
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Former selectman calls land swap snafu ‘fraud’

Deborah McDermott | The York Weekly
Deborah McDermott | The York Weekly
A construction trailer has been set up and road work at the Ridge Road end of a proposed connector road to Route 1.
By Deborah McDermott, The York Weekly

A swap of land between the town of York and Patrick Cragin of Union Bluff is one of the cornerstone agreements that has paved the way for the connector road between Ridge Road and Route 1. But while Cragin deeded his parcel to the town in 2012, the town did not reciprocate at the time — which the town manager calls an oversight and former selectman Ron Nowell has termed fraud.

In any event, the selectmen at their last meeting did sign the deed, which will be filed with the York County Register of Deeds and complete the arrangement with the Patrick Cragin Living Revocable Trust.

Nowell said he was at the Register recently, “and noticed that there was a plan recorded by the town of York for the Cragin land swap. Then I noted there were no deeds with the recorded plan,” he said. “This is very unusual and I’ve been told it constitutes fraud. There’s nothing there that the town owns what it says it owns.”

Town Manager Steve Burns said Nowell was right. The town did sign an agreement with Cragin for the swap. Essentially, the town is getting the land at the Ridge Road intersection and Cragin is getting town land behind his current overflow parking lot next door. The agreement was filed with the Registry, and in 2012, Cragin executed a deed to complete his portion of the swap.

“But the town never completed its deed to complete this exchange. It has remained in limbo since that time,” he said.

Nowell said he saw this situation as simply a continuation of the town’s slipups with regard to the road — which was once going to run past the ill-fated and abandoned police station project. “You can’t start the road because you don’t own the property yet,” he told selectmen at their last meeting. “This is unbelievable. I don’t know why the town can’t get it right.”

Burns disputes a fraud charge, saying that it was just overlooked and that there was nothing nefarious going on.

“But the fact is it didn’t happen and it needs to happen. Patrick Cragin never gave us a problem about it. Why wouldn’t he have complained? But he never did,” said Burns.

Nowell also raised concerns about the fact that the town has not lived up to its obligations as set forth in a settlement with Noreen Horn, who with her late husband Sam sued the town over the sale of land to build the police station. Under terms of the settlement, the town was to start work on the connector road by the end of February. Work is just now starting, a little over a month later.

Burns said he can’t argue with that logic, but said weather delayed the start of work. “We’re doing essentially what we said we would do,” he said. He said he has not heard from Noreen Horn’s attorney that she is raising an issue with the month delay.

It is still unclear whether the road will be completed this summer all the way to Route 1. Plans call for the contractor to build the road to within 500 feet of Route 1. A separate contract needs to be executed for the work from there to Route 1. The state is overseeing that part of the project because federal funds are being used. The remainder of the roadway is a town-funded project.

The town has received permission from the Maine Department of Transportation to administer the project itself, but other steps still need to be executed before the work can be done.

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