Board posts warning signs about algae bloom on Hobbs Pond in Norway

·4 min read

Jul. 22—NORWAY — An algae bloom on Hobbs Pond prompted town officials to place warning signs at the pond earlier this week, Town Manager Dennis Lajoie said at Thursday's selectmen meeting.

While the pond is not closed to swimmers, the signs warn visitors that the "algae can irritate those with sensitive skin" and to not swallow the water. It further warns people to keep their pets out of the water so that they do not drink the water.

This is the second consecutive year that algae has affected Hobbs Pond, also known as Little Pennesseewassee Lake.

According to Lakes Association of Norway President Sal Girifalco, phosphorous is the likely source of the algae bloom, but he is not sure of its source, but said it appears the algae is coming up from the bottom of the pond.

The algae, which he described as looking like light green paint, is capable of producing toxins. He is seeking someone from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to test the water.

The warning signs prompted a couple of residents of the pond to attend Thursday's selectmen meeting. One, a clearly frustrated and agitated Steve Siskowitz, complained for at least 45 minutes that town officials were not taking more forceful steps to protect the pond.

Siskowitz claimed he knew the source of the phosphorous — manure being spread on a nearby field by a local farmer. He also claimed manure was being used at a town cemetery.

He has complained about the use of manure since at least 2016, but an inspection by an agricultural compliance supervisor with the Maine Department of Agriculture along with the town's code enforcement officer in 2016 found no issues and said the farmer was operating within state rules.

On Thursday, Siskowitz presented the board with photos he took last fall, which he claims proves the manure is causing the problem. He said one photo showed a drainage ditch with manure in it that leads to the pond. He also said a pipe that leads to the pond was another source for the runoff.

Town officials said the state, not the town, has jurisdiction over Maine's lakes and ponds and that the state issued the permit to allow the manure-spreading operation.

Siskowitz still maintained the town has the responsibility to fix the problem.

Girifalco will meet with Siskowitz next week for a walk of the area to review his claims. A couple of selectmen said they may also join them on the inspection.

In other business, the board approved an off-premise liquor license for Rustic Taps and Catering of Gorham to cater summer and fall events at the new venue Lakeside Norway. Rustic Taps, which will operate a beer garden with wood-fired pizza, will work at four scheduled events, including a screening of the movie "Ghostbusters" Friday, July 22. Two more events will be held in August and two in September. Other upcoming events approved by the board include movies, music and a comedy show.

The board also renewed the liquor license for Norway Country Club for the clubhouse and mobile cart.

Lajoie was authorized by the board to enter into an agreement with the Maine Department of Transportation for a planning partnership initiative for a "downtown village improvement study." The town and the state will contribute $60,000 for the study.

The town will use $100,000 from its allotment of the federal American Rescue Plan Act toward renovations of the Town Office, specifically the Police Department and the town safe. The board also approved awarding the construction contract for the project to H.E. Callahan Construction of Auburn for $831,029.21.

Parks and Recreation Director Deb Partridge said Brian and Sherri Ottman have offered the town between two and three acres of land next to property leased by the town from New Balance Corp. The Ottmans envision a natural playground, a disc golf course and walking and jogging trails with exercise stations for children and adults along the path. The additional land would connect the park on Cottage Street with Ordway Grove.

Lajoie reported the town received a $100,000 grant from the state to protect infrastructure from climate change. Norway was one of 13 Maine communities to receive the grant.

An executive session was held prior to the meeting to discuss a new contract with the Teamsters, who represent Norway police. Board Chairman Russell Newcomb said the two sides have reached agreements on some items and are still working on others. Another meeting will be held next month.