Board rules 3 Fowler Street a disorderly house

Bridgton Police Officer Mac McCormick testified to the three times he responded in one day to 3 Fowler Street to a report of a disturbance.

Bridgton Police Officer Mac McCormick testified to the three times he responded in one day to 3 Fowler Street to a report of a disturbance.

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

The apartment building at 3 Fowler Street is a disorderly house, Bridgton Selectmen ruled July 23, in the first-ever hearing under its Disorderly Housing Ordinance.

The board issued the ruling after an hour-long hearing into whether Anthony and Betty Numberg failed to deal with disruptive behavior at 3 Fowler Street, one of several rental properties they own in town.

Police Chief Kevin Schofield testified that he “strongly believed” the ordinance was violated by virtue of six incidents requiring police response over 12 days, when only three incidents over 60 days are required to trigger a violation.

The board’s findings of fact ruled that five of the six incidents supported a finding of disorderly house under the definition in the ordinance. At the board’s request, Town Attorney Richard Spencer is drafting a consent agreement with the Numbergs, who will then meet with the board to discuss the terms. The terms may include a fine.

“We’re talking intoxication, arguing, swearing, at least verbal fighting, agitated behavior, at all hours of the day ranging from 8 a.m. to roughly midnight,” Schofield said at the quasi-judicial hearing, attended by around 30 people.

No one, not even the Numbergs, disputed the basic facts of the incidents covering the period of June 11–23, one of which resulted in an arrest. But Betty Numberg argued that the ordinance hadn’t been violated because the tenant involved in all six cases had been served a notice of eviction on June 30.

“I don’t understand how I could even be convicted of a disorderly if I’m taking care of the situation in the best way I can,” she said. Numberg provided a copy of language indicating that the only way for landlords to show compliance with the ordinance is to evict the tenant or tenants involved, which she has done.

Tony Numberg expanded on that argument. “I’ve never been deputized, I’m not a police officer,” he said. Eviction is his only option, which he said he takes whenever he finds evidence of drugs or “crazy” behavior. The one time he became more forceful in trying to deal with a problem tenant, he said, “It landed me a night in jail.”

Anthony and Betty Numberg, owners of the apartment building at 3 Fowler Street, at the center of the debate.

Anthony and Betty Numberg, owners of the apartment building at 3 Fowler Street, at the center of the debate.

He implied that his tenants aren’t the only people who are disruptive. “We should have another hearing on what’s going on in that neighborhood.”

Selectman Chairman Bernie King acknowledged that this was the first case they’d heard since the ordinance was adopted in 2006. “We are plowing new ground” in attempting to rule on whether a violation has occurred, King said.

Schofield was joined by Officer Mac McCormick in providing details of the six police calls — four of which occurred on the same day, on June 23. The first involved a man and woman arguing loudly and swearing at around 8 a.m., June 11, outside the entrance to apartment 3.

The only incident the board ruled did not justify a disorderly house finding occurred around midnight on June 16, involving two intoxicated men “yelling and screaming” outside near the doors to a barn behind the apartment building, Schofield said.

When police arrived, one of the men had left and the other was lying on the ground. “He was so intoxicated he couldn’t even stand,” McCormick said. He said he took the man by cruiser to an address on Pond Street, “where he sometimes stays.” No arrests were made.

Selectmen had several questions about the four calls McCormick handled on June 23, particularly after Theresa Theriault, who lives in apartment 3 at 3 Fowler Street, disputed McCormick’s version of what happened that day.

Theriault said she called police several times after two intoxicated males followed her home uninvited from Highland Lake Beach.

“I and my friend kept calling to get (police) to remove (the men) and this officer refused,” she said, pointing to McCormick. “The fourth time, when (one of the men) got arrested, I wasn’t even home.”

McCormick said Theriault most likely called Bridgton’s dispatch office, and the calls went to voice mail. The three calls he responded to were dispatched from the Cumberland County dispatching headquarters in Windham.

“You’ve got to keep in mind, a lot of times we try to deal with situations to get people to comply without actually arresting them,” McCormick said. On that day he was the only officer working the downtown, and after one of the men left, on the second call, he gave the remaining man a verbal warning, a technique he called “verbal judo” that usually resolves the situation.

Teresa Theriault, who lives in apartment 3 at 3 Fowler Street, was tearful in her testimony at the July 23 hearing.

Teresa Theriault, who lives in apartment 3 at 3 Fowler Street, was tearful in her testimony at the July 23 hearing.

In this case, however, the man ignored the warning, and McCormick arrested him on his third trip back to 3 Fowler.

“He was up at apartment 3, banging (on the door) and screaming and hollering,” said McCormick. “I placed him under arrest.”

Selectman Paul Hoyt asked whether Theriault knew the two men. McCormick said yes, “We’ve dealt with them many times, when she was living at 27 Cross Street.”

Theriault said she’s known one of the men since she was 12, but the other man was someone she had only “seen around town.”

In his closing statement, Schofield said, while he “would not dissuade people from calling police for assistance, it is my intent to use all the tools available to us to try to resolve what I’ll say is a challenging situation in my three and a half years as your chief.”

Schofield said “The Numbergs have been cooperative, but at the end of the day it’s clear that we have a violation, and we need to somehow address the situation and try to bring the quality of life back to the neighborhood, and peace and quiet.”

Although testimony at the hearing was confined to the six incidents, disturbance calls to 3 Fowler Street have been going on for several years, and more recently, several times a week, according to the department’s police logs.

“I spend an inordinate amount of time” on a daily basis reviewing the logs and talking to his officers to track whether police calls to 3 Fowler Street are verified, and not nuisance calls, Schofield said. “These calls have not been taken lightly.”

 

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