DIXFIELD — If an agreement isn't soon reached between Dixfield officials and the Mexico Sewer District, health concerns could arise by mid-August due to the inability to flush toilets into a closed sewer system.
At Wednesday night's Dixfield selectmen meeting, Town Manager Eugene Skibitsky told the board that they're being threatened by the district's trustees through the trustees' lawyer, Paul Dumas of Mexico.
"They're threatening to shut down our sewer system based on an unknown problem at some point in the future," Skibitsky said on Friday while recapping the meeting.
The currently stalled negotiations are being driven by a Maine Department of Transportation project to replace the Webb River Bridge which connects the two towns on Route 2.
Two hundred feet of the Dixfield sewer main is attached to the underside of the existing bridge. It must be replaced when the new span is built sometime next year.
The state wants an agreement reached between the district and Dixfield by Tuesday, Aug. 4.
Skibitsky said the District's three trustees have refused to meet publicly with Dixfield selectmen and Skibitsky to negotiate a new maintenance contract.
Instead, he said Dumas wants the meeting held in executive session.
The previous 30-year contract expired in June 2008, and steps weren't taken to create a new one until MDOT announced the bridge project.
Thirty years ago, the district installed sewer pipes from its treatment plant through Mexico and Dixfield. Peru was originally part of the three-way contract.
However, Skibitsky said that, at some point, Peru backed out of the contract, leaving Mexico and Dixfield to cover any costs to repair or replace piping.
Referring to a July 13 letter from Dumas, Skibitsky said he told selectmen that Dumas now wants to end negotiations and impose terms.
"He said that if we don't agree within 21 days, he will interrupt the service," Skibitsky said. "If we do give into him, Mexico is prepared to let Dixfield continue using the (sewer) lines, so there should be no interruption in service."
If Dixfield doesn't give in, Dumas has threatened to sue the town and shut down the sewer system.
"We don't understand from where this comes, so we're upset and agitated," Skibitsky said. "We plan to answer the letter, but it's very hard to negotiate when you're being threatened and browbeat."
He said selectmen are also "fed up," because they can't talk to the trustees.
"We've been told the district won't talk to us, except only through their lawyer," Skibitsky said. "So, from our perspective, we don't know if these are the views of the trustees or the lawyer."
"It's absolutely nonproductive when you have to deal with a layer that shouldn't be there and, in this case, it's a very negative layer," he added.