Zaidman questions why Avesta director on committee

By Lisa Williams Ackley

Staff Writer

Bear Zaidman asked the Bridgton Board of Selectmen Tuesday night why one of the members on the Town of Bridgton's search committee for the new Director of Planning, Economic and Community Development was Neal W. Allen, who is the chairman of the board of directors for Avesta Housing.

Zaidman asked, "How can this be?"

Avesta Housing, though not yet having come forth with a formal application to the Bridgton Planning Board, is known to have the former Chapter 11 property on Main Street in mind for a $4 million 21-unit affordable housing project it wants to construct.

So, why, Zaidman asked, was Allen a member of the town's search committee for the new director of planning, economic and community development, if he is on Avesta's board?

Bridgton Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz said he knew, at the time Allen was asked to sit on the town's search committee, that Allen held that post on Avesta's board of directors.

Allen also serves as executive director of the Greater Portland Council of Governments and has a broad knowledge of planning issues.

"One had nothing to do with the other," Berkowitz said, in response to Zaidman's question, adding that it was specifically because of Allen's expertise in the field of municipal planning that he was asked to serve on the search committee.

"He informed me he was on the board of Avesta," Berkowitz said of Allen, "and I said,  'That has nothing to do with what we are doing here.'"

"The board (of selectmen) will take that under advisement, and I will ask the board, as a group, if they want to discuss this further in executive session," stated outgoing Selectmen Chairman Arthur Triglione Sr. "We have a citizen (Zaidman) who is concerned about a possible conflict of interest."

The board declined Triglione's offer to enter into a closed-door executive session. However, Selectman Doug Taft stated, "I think it should be addressed, but I'd like to postpone it for two weeks (until the June 26 selectmen's meeting)." Taft pointed out that elections were being held Tuesday and there would possibly be two new selectmen on the board at that time. (Incumbent Taft and Robert McHatton won election to the board on June 12. See separate story).

Zaidman also questioned how checks that are used to pay Drummond & Woodsum for legal services are logged on the selectmen's accounts payable warrants.

"It (the check for legal services listed on a weekly warrant) was so far buried in the warrant, it took a miner to find it," said Zaidman.

Berkowitz said he agreed both matters brought up by Zaidman should be discussed at the next selectmen's meeting on June 26.

"I will not let that statement stand..."

However, the town manager said of Zaidman's statement that check payments are allegedly "buried" in the warrant, "I will not let that statement stand, as it is."

Berkowitz said the town pays all of its vendors, which legal firms are, by check.

"These bills (for payment) are right there," Berkowitz told Zaidman. "They are not buried — they are in alphabetical order."

Zaidman then asked Berkowitz, "Is there a paper that backs that (check) up?"

"There's an invoice," Berkowitz replied.

Former selectman Earl Cash explained that he believed Zaidman was trying to say the listings on the accounts payable warrant "are generic."

"That's better clarification," Berkowitz said.

"So, we'll take care of it," said Chairman Arthur Triglione Sr.

Property owner noise complaints

The Board of Selectmen agreed to let Chief of Police Kevin Schofield and the regulations of the town's Disorderly House Ordinance deal with a written complaint from 23 property owners and residents of Thompson Road and Mitchell Lane on Moose Pond about ongoing noise on some weekends at properties owned and rented by Peter Roth and Kim Hampton Roth.

In a rebuttal letter to the selectmen about the complaints, Roth stated, "Our action plan is to continually seek better ways to manage our homes. We look forward and appreciate Chief Schofield's suggestions and willingness to help us learn and work together. We also look forward and support Gerry Pouzol's efforts to try to make Thompson Road a more amicable neighborhood. As Gerry explained to us, he has a vested interest as he would like to retire on Thompson Road and he has good experience from his Knight's Hill (property) management days."

Skateboard park could be closed?

The selectmen held a discussion June 12 about problems at the town-owned skateboard park on Depot Street in front of the Bridgton Memorial School.

Saying no one, including the selectmen, want to see the skateboard park closed, Selectman Bernie King said, "I really think a future board (of selectmen — after the June 12 elections) is going to have to make some recommendations with the skateboard park."

Selectman King said that he walked through there on Tuesday and "saw six vehicles, loud music, smoking and all sorts of stuff going on," at the skateboard park.

"One of the recommendations may be to just close it for awhile," Selectman King said, noting that there is "a lot of tagging and profanity painted" on objects there.

"It's turned into a place I would not send my child," said King.

"I think we should ask Chief Schofield if he can get the police officers to drive through (the skateboard park) more frequently and talk to (Recreation Director) Tom Tash, before we talk about closing it," Selectman Paul Hoyt said.

Selectman Doug Taft stated, "I agree with Paul — we have ordinances in place (to address the issues there)."

"We do patrol the skateboard park, three or four times a day," Chief of Police Schofield said. "Lieutenant (Peter) Madura spoke to a group yesterday and told them, 'If this keeps up, the way things are going, the skateboard park could close.'" The police chief also noted that "some of the faces" at the skateboard may not be those of Bridgton residents.

The police chief said an education process can be started.

"I think closing it is the worst case scenario," Selectman King said.

When the town takes ownership of the Bridgton Memorial School at some point in the future, Triglione said, "The day's going to come when that skateboard park is going to need to be shut down or moved."

The selectmen concurred that they will have the chief of police and the rec director handle the issues at the skateboard park and see if things can improve.

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