Wareham officials take A.D. Makepeace to court over Parker Mills Dam

By Matthew Bernat | Aug 07, 2018
Courtesy of: Nitsch Engineering Town officials are taking the A.D. Makepeace Co. to court over who owns the Parker Mills Dam on Elm Street.

The Town of Wareham is taking cranberry grower A.D. Makepeace Co. to court over a longstanding dispute regarding which entity owns a troublesome dam.

The complaint, which will be filed this week in Plymouth Superior Court, should settle a question that’s dogged both parties for decades: Who owns the dam?

Located on Elm Street, the dam was classified as a High Hazard Potential Dam by state officials in 2014, which means its failure could result in the loss of life and damage homes and businesses. The decision closed the road indefinitely.

Selectman Peter Teitelbaum made the announcement Tuesday during the board’s meeting, saying A.D. Makepeace representatives have argued for decades the town owns the dam. According to Teitelbaum, Wareham officials believe the town owns roughly 25 percent of the dam and shouldn’t be responsible for covering the entire cost of repairs.

He noted the estimated cost to repair was $1.5 million in 2013. In 2014, the state awarded Wareham a $165,000 grant and a $835,000 loan for construction costs. However, the town never spent the money due to questions surrounding ownership. The funds are no longer available because the deadline to use them has long expired.

“None of us wanted to go to jail for spending public funds on someone else’s dam,” said Teitelbaum.

He explained the complaint is set to go before a judge who may appoint an expert to examine titles and deeds related to the dam’s ownership.

“These cases are usually handled quickly and quietly,” said Teitelbaum. “It’s the only way we can get to the end of the road here and figure out who owns the dam.”

The dam’s poor condition has put a damper on town plans to develop the nearby Tremont Nail Factory District. Starting in 1819, the site was home to the Tremont Nail Company. For more than 100 years, cut nails and other products were manufactured in the complex before the company moved to Mansfield.

In 2004, the town of Wareham bought the site using Community Preservation Act funds. The act is a Massachusetts law that allows participating cities and towns to adopt a real estate tax surcharge, supplemented by state matching funds in order to fund community preservation.

Until recently, the property has languished, attracting few tenants and drawing ire from residents tired of town funds being used to maintain the eight buildings on the property.

Over the past two years, planning officials have stepped up efforts to revitalize the property, developing a master plan and hosting events at the site to generate interest.

“It is a public safety and an issue that impedes development of the Tremonty Nail Factory complex,” said Teitelbaum. “It’s hard to get people to come here if they think they’re going to be washed away by a wall of water.”

Teitelbaum and Selectman Chair Alan Slavin said the complaint shouldn’t sour relations between the cranberry grower and the town.

“It’s been a fairly amicable relationship,” said Teitelbaum. “This is just a technical thing we have to figure out so we can move on.”

Slavin agreed.

“There’s no such thing as a ‘friendly lawsuit,” he said. “But this is as close as we’re going to come.”

Comments (8)
Posted by: Andrea Smith | Aug 08, 2018 06:57

So pleased to see this issue moving on toward a resolution.

Posted by: noseyrich | Aug 08, 2018 07:23

The town had enough money to repair the dam!!! What are the odds that Makepeace would sue the town for fixing his dam? How did the ownership of the dam get bifurcated in the first place?

Sounds like "old school" politics to me. It is just a shame that the dam has not been repaired already.

Wareham politicians...SNAP OUT OF IT!

Posted by: cranky pants | Aug 08, 2018 07:35

Noting the amount of uncontested building Makepeace has done in Wareham this damn dam should be a gift of gratuity.

How much affordable housing has Makepeace contributed to Wareham ?

Posted by: WWreader | Aug 08, 2018 12:55

Uncontested building? This is America. As long as you abide by the laws and building codes you can actually “build” on your own property. I guess it’s easy to ignore the more than a million dollars this company has given out to worthy projects and organizations in its neighborhood fund. Not enough “gratuity” for you?

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Aug 08, 2018 13:35

Take the dam out and let the river system return to its natural state. The herring will happy

Posted by: noseyrich | Aug 09, 2018 07:37

Ya, great idea! Then, when the large body of water that the dam created we could build more affordable housing fiascoes!!!

Posted by: Steve Holmes | Aug 09, 2018 07:58

This issue goes back many years, although I don't like using litigation to get to answers, I guess this is the only way to finally determine once and for all who actually owns the dam thing. (no pun intended) With all the new interest in Tremont site, this does need to be resolved. Pete says this should be resolved quickly, he knows this law, so I hope he's right so we don't lose any opportunities to finally get some of our money back.

Posted by: Linda | Aug 10, 2018 10:41

Wow!  Makepeace has done a lot for this town and some individuals in this town going way back.   A study was done quite a while back and determined the dam to belong to the town.  Where's the paperwork on that?   Cranky-uncontested building?  They build beautiful homes above Tihonet Rd.  They are building an apt. complex, next to the hotel!  Gift the dam to Wareham?  It is ours, but gifting it to us would take the cost of fixing it away from them - double negative?   ShereB. letting the dam go would be a nightmare for breeding mosquitos.  The State built the bridge there on Rte. 28.  The date is marked on it.  Couldn't they have records of ownership in their archives?  Whenever I've had surveying done, all surrounding properties are marked by bounds and landowner's names!           What get's me the most is:  WHY DIDN'T YOU SIT DOWN WITH THEM FIRST, BEFORE LITIGATION?   Oh, trying to save $, Wareham is broke - okay, lmao!

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