WARREN – Amidst concerns for public safety, the owner of a Route 90 rifle range agreed to disclose its financial condition to the state Bureau of Environmental Protection to show whether the business is capable of complying with its permit.
“I have nothing to hide,” Cathy Dunican said.
Dunican, however, did not say how soon she could provide those figures or finish construction on a project which involves covering piles of flammable polyester fiber material with sludge to create berms or mounds that absorb bullets.
BEP convened a meeting at the Masonic Hall on Route 90 at 10 a.m. Wednesday to hear testimony related to R.D. Outfitters’ rifle range, which is owned by Steamship Navigation Co.
The hearing was set to determine whether Steamship’s permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection should be revoked, suspended or modified because of noncompliance with permit requirements.
Dunican owns Steamship Navigation Co., which holds environmental permits for the rifle range, built for target practice and shooting competitions.
The project consisted of constructing four berms with a highly flammable material from Gates Formed-Fibre Co. in Auburn and covering the material with sludge from the Anson-Madison Sanitary District and sludge from another company.
The problem is that only one berm is finished, and the others are incomplete and do not have required fire breaks to inhibit the spread of fire should one start. Some necessary erosion control work also has not been done.
Concerns about the rifle range owners’ financial and technical ability to complete the project, which is now in violation of its permit, arose from a letter sent to DEP from Steamship attorney Edward Dardis, stating that the company was insolvent. DEP later learned that the letter was unauthorized.
In response to questions from the BEP, Dunican said that her husband, Randy Dunican, had medical problems, which prevented him from attending the meeting. She also stated that they had suffered financial setbacks.
“We have full intentions to complete the project,” she said, estimating the cost to be $200,000 to $250,000 to finish the work.
Dunican said that they do not have the money in hand, but are working on private financing. A bank loan was unlikely, her attorney, Alfred Frawley of Portland, said. She also indicated a potential deal with the town. Outside the hearing, Town Manager Grant Watmough said that Dunican had made no such contact with the town.
Asked about the company’s ability to at least cover the fiber material as a safety measure, Dunican said, “Nothing has changed. There’s no more of an issue today than there was in 1998.” Dunican disagreed with the fire chief’s concern that the polyester fiber posed a threat.
During questioning, Fire Chief Ed Grinnell Jr. said that his concern was over the possibility of the berms being set on fire. Such a fire would require outside assistance and heavy equipment to extinguish it, he said.
Dunican said that, if necessary, they would hire a security guard to monitor the property.
More questions than answers seemed to arise from the BEP hearing, especially when the board questioned DEP project manager Michael Parker.
The rifle range permit calls for 164,000 cubic yards of fiber material to be in the berms.
When BEP board member Richard Wardwell asked Parker why he did not put a condition of “no more than” 164,000 cubic yards of fiber material on Steamship’s permits, Parker said, “I guess I have no reason.”
Parker said that he made a “leap of faith,” going on the word of Steamship owners, that no more than 164,000 cubic yards would be brought in.
During the hearing, it was estimated that more than 200,000 cubic yards of Gates fiber material was accepted by Steamship. Gates Fibre paid the rifle range owners about $1 million for accepting the material.
Parker told the board that the permit was issued to Steamship before it got its contract from Gates Fibre. The contract required the rifle range to accept 207,000 cubic yards.
“Why did it not send up a flag?” BEP member Kathy Littlefield asked.
Parker said that he was unable to answer that question.
In the middle of debate over how much material was allowed by the permit and how much was actually accepted, Frawley asked why the permit, signed by DEP Commissioner Martha Kirkpatrick, stated that additional materials might be brought in.
According to Parker, it was a “typographical error” in the license.
By 5 p.m., BEP members had not asked where that $1 million had gone, but they had learned that Dunican did not have $250,000 in the bank to finish the job. A deadline for disclosing the company’s finances had not been set.
Mystery surrounded a $47,500 escrow account that was to be set up for the project. The money was deposited, but DEP and the town did not have access to it, according to Parker.
Dunican said that she, too, could not withdraw the money because Camden National Bank had a hold on the account. She indicated that she did not know why, but said that signature cards for the account were sent to DEP and the town. Her attorney said that they would work on getting that money turned over to DEP.
Under questioning by a BEP member, Parker said that no further action had been taken against Steamship, such as fines, since a notice of violation was issued on Dec. 28, 1999, ordering compliance by Jan. 20, 2000.
BEP member Ernest Hilton pointed out that the permit required the construction project to be overseen by an experienced landfill operator.
Randy Dunican’s brother Greg Dunican testified that he was the operations director until September 1999, and that he had no landfill or heavy equipment experience. He said he quit his job in September.
During questioning by Frawley, Greg Dunican admitted that he did not have a good relationship with his brother. Greg Dunican identified a hateful e-mail message sent Tuesday to Randy and Cathy Dunican as coming from his wife.
When Cathy Dunican testified, she said that Greg “advanced himself salaries out of the [company] checkbook.”
“He did not quit,” she said. “He was asked to leave.”
Parker told the board that he did not know whether Greg Dunican had experience as a landfill operator. Also, Parker had not consulted any fire specialists about the Gates fiber.
“The only person I spoke to was [Warren Fire Chief] Ed Grinnell,” Parker said.
According to Greg Dunican, his brother Randy directed workers to not build fire breaks in the last three berms because of cost, and that employees were ordered to disguise that omission from DEP and town inspectors when they visited the site.