LIVERMORE FALLS – Selectmen voted unanimously Monday to split the cost of sewer line repairs with residents Wayne and Pat Knowlton. The total cost of the work done was $2,757.95, making Livermore Falls Sewer Department responsible for $1,378.97.

The Knowltons’ attorney sent a letter to Town Manager Jim Chaousis asking the town to reimburse the couple for the total cost of the sewer work. Their attorney, David E. Barry, said the 2008 amendment change made by selectmen and acting Sewer Department trustees was invalid and that the 2003 amended ordinance remained in effect.

The Knowltons had contested paying for sewer work they were required to have done recently from their property line at 52 Depot St. to the sewer main.

In 2003, voters amended the original sewer ordinance to make the homeowner responsible for repairs to the sewer line to the end of the property line. The department paid for the repairs from the property line to the connection at the main, according to the ordinance then.

In 2008, trustees reversed the practice to have homeowners be responsible for the line from their home to the connection at the sewer main.

Though the trustees’ change was legal, it touched on a gray area, and may or may not prevail in court, Chaousis told selectmen last month. The way to make an ironclad change to an ordinance would be to take it to town vote, he said.

Selectmen agreed then that they should put the change out to hearing and then a public vote in the future to make it more defendable.

In an effort to save legal expenses for both parties, Wayne Knowlton said he would be willing to split the bill with the town; otherwise the matter would be going to court. He also told selectmen his sewer line to his house from his property line was new and there were no problems at that end.

Select board Chairwoman Louise Chabot said she was concerned that property owners may have already paid for the same type of work since the change last October.

Chaousis said he spoke to the Sewer Department Superintendent Kent Mitchell and no one has had to pay the expense since that time.

“I make a motion we split the difference with Wayne and we address this on a case by case basis” and not by setting a precedent, Selectman Bill Demaray said.

If it has to be sent to a lawyer, Demaray said, the town would incur expenses and still may lose in court.

Chabot said the reason the board changed the ordinance was because 2003 amendment has been costing the Sewer Department about $20,000 one year to repair lines from the property line to the main.

The issue at hand, she said, is that the ordinance be made fair to both sewer users and the Sewer Department.

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