PALERMO — In order to water their community gardens, the Palermo Community Center recently dug its own well. Pine State Drilling struck water 400 feet down two weeks ago.

“After five months of hauling jugs of water, this is an immense relief,” said Connie Bellet, president of the center.

So too is it a relief for Phil Frizzell, chief financial officer of the nonprofit community center run by the Living Communities Foundation. The 80-year-old had been hauling 25 gallons of water daily from the spigot at the Town Office in Windsor to water the garden, which helps feed 50 local families through local food pantry.

The community gardens have been at the center of a dispute between the center and the Malcolm Glidden American Legion Post 163, the organization that owns the land on which the garden grows and that has been leasing it to the center.

Frizzell is a Legion member who has paid his dues for life, and Bellet was president of the local Legion auxiliary. They lease the land from the Legion post for their mobile home – and the Palermo Community Garden – on Turner Ridge Road for $1 a year. The lease is paid through 2020. Together, the couple manage the garden that was started 18 years ago.

Apparently the land was donated to both entities – the center and the Legion – by its former owner, John Potter, who is deceased. The lease, effective in 1999, allowed the couple to put a mobile home and storage shed on the Legion property.

Then came the garden.

In 2011 the Legion mounted an offensive against the center and its garden and fought to have the lease declared unenforceable in court, but the offensive failed. Belfast District Court Judge Patricia G. Worth ruled in favor of Bellet and Frizzell.

In 2013 the Legion mounted another challenge, sending Bellet and Frizzell a letter saying the legionnaires planned to clear the garden site to build a parking lot. The letter instructed them to remove the shed, gardens and other property before construction was to begin.

Four years later, construction of the parking lot has not begun, and the garden grows in its 18th year, but not without problems to overcome.

This past June, Bellet and Frizzell claimed the Legion had laid siege to the garden, refusing to provide them with water, even though, according to the lease, the Legion is required to provide water, power and septic connections.

The Legion was given 30 days’ notice to hook the property up to a water source, but it failed to do so by the time the 30 days were up on June 4. Representatives from the Legion could not be reached Sunday.

In June, during the days of 90-degree heat, Frizzell was sweating bullets, hauling water and grousing that the Legion was getting its wish and that it was killing the garden. But the center and the garden persevered.

Said Bellet: “The best option was to drill our own well for the community center and our domicile. That way everybody is happy.”

Colin Ellis can be contacted at 861-9253 or at:

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