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Neighbors say junkyard business is 'in the wrong place'
CONCERN— Joe and Shirley Newbert voice their concern with Yap's junkyard. Yap sits behind them listening to what the selectboard has to say about the issue.
WEST PARIS— At a public hearing on Thursday, Oct. 10, residents voiced their concern about resident Ernie Yap's junkyard location, after a large fire that happened on his property in August. Eight residents were present for the hearing.
"I have no problem with any man trying to make a living. But when it starts to endanger the area and my home, I get more interested. He's not a bad person. You can't fix somebody doing something stupid, and he doesn't have control of that," said Joe Newbert, Yap's neighbor.
In August, a large fire was started on Yap's property in his junkyard. The fire consumed multiple old cars piled atop one another. This event drew attention from newspapers and news channels across the state.
At the selectboard's meeting a week after the fire occurred, West Paris Fire Chief Norm St. Pierre delivered a list of precautions that Yap needed to take. Selectman Wade Rainey said that since Yap received the list, St. Pierre has visited Yap's junkyard three times to make sure that he has been following the instructions.
St. Pierre told the board that if it had been a dry summer, the entire side of the mountain that the junkyard sits on would have gone up in flames.
"That would have been devastating. It would have crippled a lot of places in town," Newbert continued.
Newbert's biggest concern is the safety location of Yap's business.
"We as a town need to address this as a town," he continued. "If his junkyard was on the outskirts of town, it wouldn't be a big deal. But he's dead center in town."
Selectman Dennis Henderson informed Newbert about the list of things that Yap would need to do to keep his business secured, and that he has inspected Yap's land a few times.
"What we asked for him to do, he's pretty much covered," said Henderson.
One of the requirements on the fire chief's list was to create a separate area on the property for Yap to cut vehicles or other scrap metals. It was the sparks from someone cutting pieces of a vehicle that day that started the fire.
According to Yap, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection takes care of anything else that may be a hazard on his property. One of these hazards is the amount of barrels of chemicals that Yap has on his property. They are dangerous because of the toxic fumes that they put off.
"If it's properly taken care of it's a lot less hazardous," said Newbert.
Yap explained to the board that the afternoon of the fire, none of the barrels on his property had chemicals in them.
"If they had, DEP would have nailed me to the cross," said Yap.
Henderson said that the state will monitor Yap's business to make sure that all precautions are being taken.
"All we do is permit automobiles, graveyards and junkyards," said Selectman Wade Rainey.
The wire and aluminum on Yap's property is considered hazardous material also.
"It's not the aluminum itself that's a problem. It's the dust that comes off the aluminum. It's toxic, and it can poison you if you handle it with your bare hands," said Newbert.
"Ernie is learning a lot through this," said Henderson.
Newbert interjected, saying that if a fire on Yap's property happens again, the selectboard would hear about it from him.
"You're not gonna like me," said Newbert. "I'm not threatening you, I'm just going to be very upset with you."
"You guys don't live with it," added Newbert's wife Shirley.
"In six months, there's been four or five fires within a thousand feet of my home, and three of those involve Mr. Yap," said Newbert. "Those three were caused by stupidity."
Mrs. Newbert interjected, saying that she's very concerned.
Shirley Newbert's other major concern about the location of Yap's business is that he has numerous trucks entering traveling down the road. Because she babysits her grandchildren, she is worried that they may get hit if the drivers aren't being careful.
The heavy traffic has caused personal run-ins between Mrs. Newbert and the truck drivers.
"It's just a hassle. Nobody has to put up with it but us so nobody knows what we go through," said Shirley Newbert. "It's ridiculous."
Shirley Newbert said that she has tried to talk to Yap about the situation but no progress has been made.
"He's an educated man," said Newbert. "I just worry about what's going to happen. I'm worried about what he would do when your back is turned or when our back is turned."
"In all fairness to Ernie, he can't control that," said Joe Newbert about Ernie Yap's employee truck drivers.
Joe Newbert's concern is for the safety of his wife. His fear is that if she were to get hurt while he wasn't home, ambulances wouldn't be able to park near the house because Yap's employee truckers had already parked there.
"Those 'no parking' signs don't mean anything to anybody," said Shirley Newbert. "If I could, I'd sell and get out of there."
The Newberts say that they know it's not Yap's fault, it's just a hazardous location.
"It's just the business is a hazard there," said Shirley Newbert. "It needs to be somewhere where it's not in a community. It's just in the wrong place."
"I'm running a business," Yap said. "I'm not having trucks there all the time. I don't have that many."
Joe Newbert said that the problem is not the size or amount of Yap's trucks. It's the people driving the trucks.
"We're trying to be good neighbors," said Joe Newbert.
Yap said that in his defense, every time he sees someone parked in front of the Newberts' home, he asks them to move, and they do. Joe Newbert agreed that the issue has gotten better over the past few weeks.
"But one bad apple spoils the barrel," said Joe about the group of truck drivers that have been causing problems.
After discussion, Henderson said that the board would continue to check on Yap's business to make sure that he is following safety precautions. The board will not be making a decision on what to do with Yap's junkyard permit until their next meeting on Oct. 24.
"We're going to monitor it regularly," said Henderson.