WATERVILLE — A court hearing that was scheduled to resolve a complaint from the town of Rome against the owner of an unpermitted junkyard has been postponed after the junkyard owner fell on an excavator and injured himself while trying to clean up the property, according to court records.

Larry DiPietro Sr., who owns the junkyard at 602 Augusta Road with his wife, Janet DiPietro, was on a list of witnesses to be called during the half-day trial scheduled for Wednesday morning in Waterville District Court.

However, a judge last week granted a request by DiPietro’s attorney, Brad Grant, to postpone resolution of the case until a later date after Grant reported DiPietro was injured May 19 while trying to remove salvage material from the property.

During the cleanup, DiPietro lost his balance in the mud and fell on to an excavator. The excavator blade pierced his stomach, and he was later taken to the hospital with internal bleeding, according to court documents filed by Grant.

As of Thursday, DiPietro was not expected to be released from the hospital for at least a week, and his long-term prognosis was not known, the documents said.

Messages left for the DiPietros were not returned immediately Tuesday afternoon.

In an interview, Grant said Larry DiPietro’s condition is “not good,” and while a new hearing date for the case has been set for June 10, “I’m concerned he won’t be any better then.”

Grant said the couple has been working with the town to come into compliance, and he is hopeful the judge in the case could grant them more time for cleanup if she learns the town has been working with them.

“Salvage yards are completely legal,” Grant said. “The issue really is they just want him to be in compliance with town ordinances and Maine law. I think most of (what they’re lacking) is fencing. Rome allows for salvage yards, which is why they have re-applied for the permit.”

The injury is the second the DiPietros have suffered on the property the town has been trying to get them to clean up. Over the winter, their son, Larry DiPietro Jr., was injured as he assisted with cleanup and an axle fell on him, according to Grant.

The trial scheduled for Wednesday was intended as resolution to a complaint the town of Rome filed alleging the DiPietros had failed to clean up their property after the town denied them a local permit for a junkyard and issued notices of violation of state law.

The town denied the original permit application in October 2017 on grounds including failure to screen the junkyard from ordinary view, failure to handle fluids properly to prevent leakage or water contamination, failure to maintain a log of all motor vehicles handled, and failure to demonstrate the junkyard is part of a viable business entity.

Rome Code Enforcement Officer Andrew Marble also wrote in court records filed last year that the DiPietros were in violation of state law because they had at least 25 unregistered or uninspected trucks and at least 100 unregistered or uninspected cars on their property.

Wednesday’s trial was expected to determine how and when the property would be cleaned up and whether fines or penalties would be imposed on the DiPietros, who have argued in court records that they did not need the junkyard permit because they have a recycler’s license issued by the Maine secretary of state.

The town filed its court case against the DiPietros almost one year ago, and in January a district court judge filed a preliminary ruling in the town’s favor.

In records filed last week, the town argued it was against extending the timeline for the case, despite DiPietro’s injury, because it only would add further delays to an already drawn-out dispute.

Marble did not respond immediately Tuesday to requests for comment.

“Plaintiffs do not want to miss another cleanup season and fear that further delay will cause that to happen,” wrote Sally Daggett, the attorney for the town of Rome and Marble in court documents.

She also wrote that although Larry DiPietro Sr. was injured, his wife and son are fully involved in the operation of the business and were listed as witnesses to be called by the defense.

A new hearing on the case has been scheduled for 1 p.m. June 10 in Waterville District Court.

 

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