Dam dispute pits Wareham against cranberry grower

Sep 4, 2018

To the Editor:

Without speculating on who wins the legal dispute between the Town of Wareham and the A.D. Makepeace Company over the ownership and repair of the Parker Mills dam, it is laughable that Makepeace has taken to the press to gripe about the evils and costs of litigation.

Makepeace had no problem with litigation, or its costs, when it threatened legal action against the Wareham Water District over truthful statements the District wanted to include in its citizen flyer which linked the contamination of our public drinking wells with chemicals from Makepeace’s cranberry bogs. Indeed the Makepeace “leader” that threatened this litigation is also an elected official in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts where he is zealously fighting for accountability from the corporate polluter that may have infected the Shrewsbury public drinking water wells. Different rules where you work versus where you and your family live and must drink the water, apparently.

And Makepeace’s complaint that litigation is a poor choice by the Town given its economic challenges is hysterical and hypocritical in equal parts. After all, in the view of some, the Town’s poor financial condition is due in part to  massive cranberry growers not paying their fair share of real estate taxes by taking unfair advantage of the agricultural gimmick of all gimmicks known as Chapter 61A. 

Factor in also the reduced tax revenues the Town receives from Makepeace due to the enormous tax breaks it obtained for its Rosebrook project, and little wonder our schools have too many leaky roofs, lousy classrooms and dated text books.

If the dam repair costs were nominal (rather than  projected to exceed $1 million as they are) this matter would not be in the paper or in the courthouse, nor would Makepeace likely be holding out as it has. Just as it is allegedly holding out for federal grants (corporate welfare) to address the cleanup of the mess it has created with our drinking wells.  Are these most recent events indicative of a company indoctrinated with the mistaken belief that it is immune from the rules of law and good corporate citizenship?

In any case, if the Town uses its head it shouldn’t lose this dam dispute despite what the court rules. 

After all, if the court rules that Makepeace owns the dam or any portion of it ... it must pay its fair share of the repair costs (and compensate all parties harmed by the street closing caused by the dam’s disrepair). 

Alternatively, if the court rules as insufficient the multiple deeds recorded in the Plymouth Country Registry which the town asserts confirms Makepeace as the majority owner of the dam, so long as the dam continues to trap water which Makepeace later pollutes (i.e. uses to grow cranberries for a profit), the Town should hold Makepeace accountable by charging a fee for the usage of the dam (trapped water). The usage cost being equal to the repair costs and the litigation costs as well. 

Barry Cosgrove