A sign directs motorists to Ramsdell Stone and Gravel in York, Maine, where the town is demanding the property's former owner clean up a site reportedly covered in junked cars, scrap metal and other detritus. Credit: Google Streetview

YORK, Maine — A “monumental task” is facing David Ramsdell of Ramsdell Stone and Gravel to clean up a gravel pit the town now owns for back taxes, said his attorney. But he is committed to doing the work, she said.

Attorney Wendy Moulton on Monday presented selectmen with an ambitious cleanup plan, to remove scrap metal, junk vehicles, construction debris, tires, asphalt and containers of liquid found on the site of the sand and gravel pit by local and state officials. At issue are properties at 9 and 13 Granite Lane, which the town has owned since 2015 because the company failed to pay property taxes. This same situation occurred in 2006, but the property was redeemed the following year.

Code Enforcement Officer Amber Harrison and Eric Hamlin of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection visited the property in May and found that, rather than remove items as required under a state cease and desist order in 2016, Ramsdell added to the stockpile.

At its June 11 meeting, the Board of Selectmen gave Ramsdell two weeks to come up with a site cleanup plan or face eviction from the property. It indicated both that night and Monday that cleanup came first, and then Ramsdell could work toward paying off an estimated $30,000 in back taxes.

Moulton provided a plan that requires the entire property to be clean by mid-September. Signs will be installed at the end of June indicating no new waste will be allowed on the property and it will be gated after business hours. Trespassers will be reported to police. Also by June 30, hazardous waste will be contained and removed.

As summer continues, the plan calls for an end to burning materials, cleanup of trash and debris, and scrap metal, tire and asphalt removal. Last to go will be approximately 18 vehicles on site, which will be sold or scrapped. That work will be done by Sept. 15, when the entire cleanup should be complete.

“Is this doable, this timeline or are we just wasting everyone’s time” Selectman Robert Palmer asked.

“I agree it’s a monumental task,” Moulton said. “We all agree it’s now or never. Is it doable? Mr. Ramsdell believes it is. He’s committed. He knows this is the only way to get his property back. I think this is a serious effort.”

Turning to Burns, Palmer said, “How are we going to know the deadlines are being met?”

“There will be key benchmarks along the way. I assume we will know when those are hit,” he said. But Palmer wanted something more definitive. “I want the reporting piece to be in here.”

“I suggest 30- and 60-day reports, and we can do a weekly report to you, if you’d like,” Moulton said. “There will be transparency. If anyone wants to see what progress we’ve made, we will maintain an active log.”

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