A lot of ground was covered in last night’s 2 hour Whitefield Selectman’s special informational meeting. There were 26 people there not including the Selectmen. Paul Kelley was there. I wasn’t sure if he was going to show up. I’m glad he did. These are the highlights of the meeting from my perspective.
- The Selectmen prepared a letter yesterday which they sent to Kathy Howatt of the DEP regarding the pending request by Pleasant Pond Mill LLC (PPM) to be released from dam ownership, noting that a request has been filed with the DEP requesting the petition be denied (that would be my letter dated 29 April 2013). The town’s concern is the considerable effort and expense they have to go through to hold a public hearing on the matter and wondering what the DEP might do about it: Town of Whitefield’s 30 April 2013 letter to DEP about the petition.
- The Selectmen have prepared another letter addressed to Paul Kelley which they signed at last night’s meeting and hand-delivered to him asking him for the cost or price of the dam. Kelley has until 10 May 2013 to respond. At issue is the Town’s need to prepare a warrant for the town meeting and the voters of the town of Whitefield will need to know the cost of the dam. Because of the time required after receiving the information from Kelley, the Selectmen voted to push out the public meeting date to Thursday May 30, 2013. It was going to be May 22nd. Why it is going to take Paul Kelley 10 days to respond to the Town with his asking price for the dam is beyond me.
- I’ve already written in a previous post about Kathy Howatt’s email to Paul Kelley and how the Department has concluded that Pleasant Pond Mill lacks sufficient right, title, and interest to satisfy the statutory requirements for transferring the dam. It turns out the Office of the Attorney General interprets the statute as I do about- that the flowage rights must be included in the conveyance of the dam. Kelley has until May 13th to supply DEP with the requested information. As I see it, this means he’s either got to transfer the flowage rights back to Pleasant Pond Mill and send DEP a copy of a recorded deed to prove it, or he can pick up his bat and ball and go home. That email was subsequently forwarded to the Town of Whitefield and is now public information: DEP Email to PPM requesting proof of sufficient right, title, and interest.
- Paul Kelley said one particularly revealing thing while talking about selling the dam: that Art Enos, the mortgage holder “does not want the dam back” and that furthermore, “Art may get the dam back” and that whomever ends up with the dam will likely end up negotiating with Art over the balance of the mortgage. I can just imagine that Art will be thrilled- THRILLED I say, to hear this. This statement (which I’m sure Paul wishes he hadn’t made) also corroborates what I’ve been saying all along: that if the it looks like he’ll get stuck owning the dam with a water level order on it, he’ll dump the dam back in Art Enos’s lap. Kelley can’t simply sell (or even give away) the dam because he still owes substantial money on it. This is another reason why Kelley has filed this petition under false pretenses: not only does Pleasant Pond Mill LLC not own the flowage rights, he doesn’t have clear title to the dam itself. He doesn’t so much want release from dam ownership as much as he wants relief from the mortgage on the dam. That should be a private matter between him and Art Enos.
- When asked why he wanted to get rid of the dam, he said Pleasant Pond Mill owns a property with no viable commercial use that is just going to cost money to own and will never make any money.
- Kelley was asked why he split the property (transferred the flowage rights to Aquafortis). Kelley never did satisfactorily answer this question. At least I didn’t understand what he said. He did say that he was advised to do so by a lawyer as if that some how makes it alright. When talking about flowage rights, he did more to confuse the issue than enlighten anyone, talking about “flow rights” vs “flowage rights” vs “water rights” without actually explaining the difference between them. Clearly and attempt to obfuscate the issue. Flowage rights are fundamentally very simple. I understand them.
- In another revealing exchange, Ron Rollins came right out and asked (thank you Ron!) point-blank what does Kelley want for the dam? Again, Kelley did provide a satisfactory answer. Kelley said that Pleasant Pond Mill “does not hold the mortgage” though nobody seemed to care enough to ask who DID hold it (Kelley’s machinations around who’s who and who owns what is tiresome). I asked what the outstanding balance is, Kelley said he does not know how much the outstanding balance on the mortgage is; that nothing has been paid on it for a long time and that it has been accruing interest for years. FYI, the original (recorded) mortgage deed specifices an amount of $60,000. We don’t know how much (or how little) Kelley has actually paid on it but the implications of what Kelley said about it is that the sum could be considerably more than the original mortgage.
- Dennis Merrill suggested the town will ask DEP to in effect “stop the clock” on the timing of town public hearing (within 60 days of the filing of the notice of intent i.e., April Fools Day) though it is unclear if DEP has the discretionary authority to make such a ruling.
- There were the usual direct questions about Aquafortis Associates each followed by Kelley’s evasive (and predictable) dodge-ball tactics of talking at length without saying anything. We all know who Aquafortis Associates is, we have the real estate transfer tax form Kelley filed with the Town of Whitefield when the property was transferred to Aquafortis Associates specifying that no transfer tax due because the transfer was a “Conveyance from one LLC to another with same principals.” Who does this guy think he’s fooling? His continued subterfuge around this subject is painful to watch.
- Apparently in an attempt to defend himself against allegations that he is somehow responsible for the ecological and environmental disaster taking place on Clary Lake, Kelley asked if anyone was aware of any illegal activity on the part of Pleasant Pond Mill LLC. This statement out of many that Kelley made during the meeting epitomizes the disconnect between Kelley and everyone else: Whatever has happened, he’s done nothing wrong. He’s broken no laws. He’s committed no crimes. Yes the impact of the draw down on Clary Lake is tragic, but it’s not his fault, he’s done nothing wrong. The loss of wildlife habitat is regrettable, but it’s not his fault, he’s done nothing wrong. This man refuses to assume responsibility for the consequences of his actions. That ought to be a crime.
That about wraps up my reporting. When it was all said and done, nothing substantive was accomplished and the Town is left with more questions than answers, but then it was after all just an informational meeting. If I think of anything else of importance I’ll post it. I’m interested in what other people who were there have to say.