WILMINGTON, MA — At last week’s Board of Selectmen Meeting, Town Manager Jeff Hull revealed there is some uncertainty over the owner of a parcel of 4.5 acres of land off Route 125, just to the east of the Target.
The potential revelation was discovered after Reading Municipal Light Department expressed an interest in purchasing the property in order to build a new power substation in North Wilmington.
“We received a request from [Town Counsel] KP Law that the board grant consent to allow them to represent both RMLD and the Town regarding a piece of property in Wilmington that RMLD is interested in,” explained Town Manager Jeff Hull. “RMLD is looking to locate a space for a new power substation in North Wilmington. The one on Wildwood Street is in dire need of replacement…. They’ve identified a parcel off of Route 125.”
“According to our Town Assessor’s records, the land is owned by New England Power,” continued Hull. “New England Power has done some research and believe the Town of Wilmington actually owns the property. Given the circumstance, where KP Law is counsel to both RMLD and the Town, under the rules of professional conduct, KP Law is obligated to notify the town of this circumstance and to request the board consent.”
“RMLD is working with New England Power to determine the correct ownership. Until a determination is made, I don’t see any issue with the fact that KP happens to be consel to both RMLD and town,” finished Hull. “If it is determined the property is owned by the town, and there’s negotiations, then that may be a different story and the board may want to reconsider it.”
“Time out right now,” said Selectman Mike McCoy. “We [may] have 4.5 acres out on Route 125? We have talked about a fire and police substation. Wouldn’t it be to our advantage to take another look at this. If we own this, we should grab it!”
“It’s not confirmed that we do own it,” responded Hull. “I’d like RMLD and New England Power to make the determination on their dime and then we can have consel look at that. If it turns out the town of Wilmington owns the property, it would be a discussion for the Board of Selectmen whether town should engage with RMLD to locate a power station on the property or whether the town says it’s not interested and looks at other options.”
“This is potentially great news,” Selectman Chair Greg Bendel would later add.
“[What we’re signing] doesn’t say to determine ownership of the property,” cautioned O’Mahony. “It says ‘relative to RMLD’s interested purchase.’ I think it’s too broad. I’m OK signing a determination if it’s specific that KP Law’s sole scope to RMLD is determining the ownership of the property. My concern is the way it’s written here it’s representing them in the purchase of the property. That’s a huge conflict. We’d have to pay outside consel to advise and represent us in that matter.
“That’s a great catch,” responded Bendel.
“I can appreciate that point,” added Hull.
“We just had the Police Chief and Deputy Fire Chief here talking about Andover Street being an ideal location for a substation and now we’re told there’s potential of 4.5 acres in that same area,” continued O’Mahony. “It would be difficult to determine it surplus property given the different things it could be utilized for.”
“I will speak with Mark Rich of KP Law and advise him on the concern” responded Hull. “There’s no concern with the language authorizing KP Law’s involvement with determining ownership, but the language relative to any potential purchase of the property should be struck. A draft will be revised and presented to the Board at its September meeting.”
In response to a question from former Selectman Frank West, who was in the audience, Hull confirmed that New England Power has been paying taxes on the property.
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