LEWISTON — Harvest Hill Farm owner Peter Bolduc Jr. has asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to reconsider its order dismissing his request for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, arguing he needs the protection to reorganize his business.

The court dismissed his case this past December, citing three reasons: Bolduc accrued additional debt after filing for bankruptcy without the means to pay that debt; the absence of a workable plan to address debt other than “a speculative intention to liquidate and thus cease operations;” and a habit of late filing of mandatory financial reports with the court.

Bolduc has asked the court to reconsider, citing a potential state-imposed fine or penalty against his company arising from The Gauntlet accident in 2014 and the probability of additional creditors seeking payment from him.

The court has so far denied Bolduc’s efforts to reopen the case. On June 21, the U.S. Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the First Circuit declined to hear oral arguments in this case, and will make its ruling on Bolduc’s appeal based on arguments already presented.

According to court records, Bolduc has not been able to pay the mortgage on his Mechanic Falls property since 2014 “due to the fact that Harvest Hills was unable to generate enough income during the peak season” in 2015, a year after a hayride accident occurred at the farm that killed 17-year-old Cassidy Charette of Oakland and injured dozens of others.

Bolduc filed for bankruptcy protection in July 2015 for his company, Andover Covered Bridge, which owns the Route 26 land and buildings, to allow him time to restructure his finances and stay in business. According to the bankruptcy petition, at the time Bolduc estimated the debt of Andover Covered Bridge at between $1 million and $10 million.

According to court records, Bolduc’s attorney said the bankruptcy petition was filed “on the eve of a foreclosure” to immediately protect the property from a pending auction, and that the “game plan has been to try to go through one more season of operations to see what was going to happen.”

Attorney Steven Cope told the court the plan was to “see what fallout the debtor suffered as a result of that accident a year ago and see if there was any way to file a plan that was essentially a bootstrap” to stay in business.

As it turned out, Cope said, “the impact of that accident was too great. The game plan then was going to shift, as had been avowed right from the beginning, to a sale situation.”

Attorney Jennifer Pincus with the Office of the U.S. Trustee pushed for the court to dismiss the bankruptcy filing because, she said, Bolduc’s claims do not qualify for bankruptcy protection. The case, she said, “looks like a classic single asset real estate case and a two-party dispute. There’s been nothing to change our opinion on that. It’s unfortunate what happened at Pumpkin Land and it’s an unfortunate situation this debtor finds himself in, but it’s not uncommon, unfortunately.”

Pincus told the court the mortgage holders support dismissal, too, so they can sell the property. But, she said, “the sole purpose of this case seems to be to hold off the secured creditor (mortgage holders) from being able to foreclose its interest in the real estate.”

Bolduc’s attorney agreed that liquidation of the property is the best outcome, but he argued that it should be done properly and under bankruptcy protection.

But Pincus told the court that since the goal of all parties is to sell, “we think those goals are more properly achieved outside of the Bankruptcy Court” and that Bolduc’s desire to stall that sale for his own benefit is not “a proper purpose for a Chapter 11 case.”

When the bankruptcy petition was filed, Penny Anderson, Peter Anderson and Emily Anderson were all named as creditors. Emily was injured during the Oct. 11, 2014, hayride accident.

In October, the Andersons were removed as creditors because they have decided to pursue their financial claims with Bolduc’s insurance company instead of through the bankruptcy court.

The remaining largest creditors include the town of Mechanic Falls, for unpaid personal property taxes, and mortgage holders Jaspan Schlesinger, a law firm in Garden City, N.Y., and E. Layne Moulders Corp., of Amityville, N.Y.

The New York creditors each have a half-interest in the property, and bankruptcy protection would stop any action by them to enforce any claim or lien, including forcing a foreclosure auction on the property, until Bolduc has time to reorganize.

According to court records, Cope said Bolduc’s reorganization strategy is to sell the property to satisfy the mortgage holders and pay the outstanding property taxes.

In addition to the outstanding mortgage and property taxes owed, Bolduc and his wife, Kathie, are facing foreclosure of their family home in Poland. When the foreclosure was filed last year, the couple owed nearly $600,000 in principal and nearly $40,000 in interest on two mortgages with Androscoggin Savings Bank.

The Bolducs are also in default of a loan by Tomi Chipman Inc., which sold its Pumpkin Land business to the couple in 2009, according to Androscoggin County Superior Court records. The sale included the business name, signs and equipment.

The Bolducs petitioned the court to summarily dismiss both foreclosure actions but were denied. The claims are still active.

A message left with Cope for comment was not returned.

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More coverage: Charette family sues Bolduc, Harvest Hill Farm in fatal hayride accident

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