Officials want salvage yard to clean up its act

Feb 27, 2018

Town officials are worried about fuel seeping into groundwater at a Hixville Road auto salvage yard, but its owners accuse the Select Board of being prejudiced against them. Now, police escorts are required for site visits.

The concerns stem from a recent visit to VACME Auto Salvage by Director of Public Health Chris Michaud and Select Board members. Concerns were raised with maintenance, including the impact fluids from vehicles and home-heating oil tanks on the property could have on the environment.

Michaud said several vehicles were encompassed by weeds, including one with a tree growing through it. The metal could erode over time and leak fluids left in those vehicles into the ground, Michaud said.

The Select Board addressed the issue at a February 26 meeting. Member Shawn McDonald noted that “there are no fast-growing trees, so that car had to be there for years.”

Select Board member Kelli Taglianetti said she saw and smelled oil during her visit, and observed sludge in one home heating oil tank. Michaud said liquid in those tanks could cause environmental issues if released. The property is located in an area where residents rely on well water.

Michaud said non-automobile junk not covered by their operating license were also observed, some of which “pose a threat for imminent release” of harmful substances.

Owners Helen and Manuel Vieira were upset with the board, accusing members of being prejudiced toward them. They both attended the February 26 Select Board meeting seeking approval to renew their license.

The license allows the acquisition of dealer plates, which the pair said is necessary to continue doing business.

The Select Board wants the owners to clean up the property and ensure no environmental harm through a 90-day period in which the owners need to meet certain requirements which are still being drafted by Michaud. Environmental issues will be addressed first.

Select Board members were also affirmative on Manuel Vieira’s attitude and actions toward board members. Chairman Frank Gracie said he previously told him to “play nice” with officials and his suggestion was not followed.

Town officials will be escorted by a police officer when inspecting the property, and the board suggested having the officer log Manuel Vieria’s behavior toward the officials.

McDonald said Manuel Vieira needs to respect the officials who are just trying to do their job. Other board members added they want to help the owners, but that requires them to do the same.

“I don’t want to take their livelihood away, but then again we’re also shepherds of what has to be done in the town correctly,” McDonald said. “If this wasn’t the Vieiras, if this was the Smiths, if this was the Jones, if this was another thing down over on Dartmouth Street same problem, we’d be doing the same thing. This isn’t just picking out on someone.”

However, member Stanley Mickelson said this was the final straw for the owners.