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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Sewer Taken By Eminent Domain

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, December 14, 2005

North Adams Apartments Limited Patrnership principal and city property owner Michael Deep.
North Adams – City Councilors unanimously approved an eminent domain taking of a West Shaft Road sewer system owned by the North Adams Apartments Limited Partnership during a Dec. 13 City Council meeting. Councilors also unanimously approved a $10,000 appropriation from the city’s stabilization account as compensation for the property.

Deep Speaks

The action came after city developer, property owner, and partnership principal Michael Deep wound a long and detailed saga of the sewer system and his personal and business relationship with Mayor John Barrett III. Deep had asked to speak during the council meeting and he challenged numerous points Barrett delivered to councilors about the sewer and its’ ownership during an Oct. 11 City Council meeting.

Deep reiterated that he is a majority shareholder of the partnership.

Deep’s allegations prompted Barrett to tell councilors that if Deep were allowed to proceed as he was, Barrett would leave the council meeting.

Council President Michael Bloom instructed Deep to keep his remarks free of personal attack.

Reading from a stack of papers, Deep told councilors that the partnership was formed during the construction of the Tunnel Brook apartment complex, which was built during the late 1980s and was funded with a federal $1.5 million Farmer’s Home Administration loan.

The sewer system and an accompanying lift station [needed to move effluent uphill] were built by the partnership to accommodate the housing project, Deep said. Deep said that as mayor, Barrett committed to paying $50,000 toward the anticipated $100,000 sewer cost with a handshake; Deep also claims that when he attempted to collect the money in 1990, Barrett told Deep that he had no memory of such an agreement, and then later said he did remember the deal but could only provide $25,000 for the project. According to Deep, Barrett said that the city’s economy had fallen onto hard times and that is why the city couldn’t pay $50,000; Deep claimed that the $25,000 was subsequently pulled off the table as well.

Deep also claimed that the actual sewer construction cost was just over $136,000 and that he did not seek any more money from the city than what he alleged was originally agreed.

Barrett’s alleged actions led to the demise of a Deep/Barrett friendship, Deep said.

When Barrett told the council that a deal was underway for the city to purchase the sewer line on Oct. 11, he was misleading councilors, Deep charged.

Deep has said that he is not interested in continuing ownership of the sewer system but is interested in being paid fairly for the system.

Barrett Makes An Offer During Meeting


North Adams Mayor John Barrett III
Barrett strongly objected to Deep’s characterization of his actions and the events surrounding the sewer, and produced a letter from David Carver to the Farmer’s Home Administration that appeared to indicate a sale of the Tunnel Brook property was in the works. That sale would have cleared the way for the city to purchase the sewer; Barrett said that partnership principals David Crayford and Michael Higgs subsequently backed out of a potential sale and then appointed Deep as the partnership spokesperson.

According to Barrett, the sewer system is assessed with a property tax value of $6,400.

Barrett offered to withdraw the eminent domain action if Deep would publicly agree to permit numerous West Shaft Road residents to connect to the system. Barrett said that if Deep would allow the additional connections, the partnership would avoid an eminent domain taking and a serious health issue facing about 35 West Shaft Road residents would be resolved.

Deep was also asked by several councilors if he would permit the residents, many of whom are plagued by failing septic systems, to connect to the sewer. The failing septic systems pose a significant public health and safety hazard, Barrett told councilors. Most of the affected residents cannot afford the high costs of erecting new septic systems or repairing existing septic systems, Barrett said.

“Mr. Deep, if you will allow those people to hook up, you can keep your sewer,” Barrett said at one point during the meeting.

Deep declined repeatedly to allow the connections under the partnership’s ownership of the sewer.

Councilors questioned several aspects of the proposed eminent domain taking –including whether the $10,000 compensation would hold up if challenged in a court battle - before ultimately concluding that the health issues for residents of West Shaft Road were an overriding factor, and Deep, by his own acknowledgement, would not allow the residents to connect to the sewer.

City counilors Robert Moulton Jr. and Richard Alcombright review eminent domain documents submitted to councilors by Barrett on Dec. 13.


Barrett noted that Deep could have charged between $5,000 and $10,000 for the resident connections, and Councilor Ronald Boucher joined the councilors who asked Deep to reconsider his refusal for new connections.

“There’s a severe health issue up there,” Boucher said to Deep. “Why not let these people hook on? This is important.”

Deep repeated that he would not allow it.

Councilor Richard Alcombright said that he is acquainted with West Shaft Road residents “who literally can’t flush their toilets but a couple of times a day.”

Deep left the meeting immediately following the vote without making any public comment and accompanied by attorney Fred Thompson.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.

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