Makepeace can no longer evade accountability for deadbeat dam that impairs fish passage, threatens safety
Town Meeting voted on Tuesday, April 25 to urge the Select Board and Town Counsel Richard Bowen to inquire further into the A.D. Makepeace Company’s ownership of the crumbling Parker Mills Dam.
Resident Barry Cosgrove, who brought the petition to Town Meeting, said the town needs to fight Makepeace on the ownership question so that the cranberry company will help pay for the much-needed removal of the dam.
The Parker Mills Dam lies largely under Elm Street, which has been closed for almost a decade. In 2014, the state classified it as a High Hazard Potential Dam, which means its failure could result in loss of life and the destruction of homes and businesses. Elm Street has been closed since that time.
The dam’s legal ownership has been in contention for years. The town filed a suit against A.D. Makepeace in 2018, claiming that the town owns only 25% of the dam. The town dropped the suit in 2019 after entering into negotiations with the company.
A.D. Makepeace Vice President of Marketing and Communications Linda Burke said weeks ago that the company is actively working with Bowen to sort out the dam’s ownership.
Town Meeting voted on the item as a resolution, meaning the vote serves as a recommendation to the Select Board rather than a legal requirement.
Bowen said the town’s analysis indicates that A.D. Makepeace is the owner of the dam, but that Makepeace has a legal argument on why they do not own the dam.[The legal argument] is not one I accept,” Bowen said.
Select Board member Alan Slavin said he’s been trying to get a straight answer about the ownership of the dam since 2008, and that the Select Board wants to fully remove the dam if funding is available. If full funding is not available, a partial removal plan will be the best option, he said.
Former Select Board member Peter Teitelbaum agreed that Makepeace owns the dam, but endorsed voting against the resolution because forcing the matter to return to court court would likely delay action on fixing the dam.
Local resident Cliff Sylvia said that he’s worried about the situation becoming dangerous if the dam one day fails.
“It’s entirely possible that we could have a catastrophic situation if the dam breaks,” Sylvia said.