We’ve all heard it before: “I’ll sue you!”. A wise lawyer once told me that people who say that have never tried it. The same lawyer also says that civil suits often have nothing to do with being right.
A few weeks ago I was stunned to find out that the town is doubling down on the RIB lawsuit. They have spent $200,000 to date and have put $500,000 into this year’s budget. As taxpayers, we have no idea as to the merits of the case. One Selectman told me directly that they were not going to “roll over”. Easy for him to say when taxpayers are footing the bill. I’m not so emotionally invested.
I’ve posted the case summary from the court’s website here. The Town is saying that Wright Pierce (WP) was negligent in their engineering of the RIB system because it is working at only half of design capacity. WP has claimed that there was no warranty of performance, that the town hired another engineering firm who positively reviewed the design, and that the damage may be due to the town exceeding recommendebd flow rates shortly after start-up,
The Wolfeboro Conservation Commission is a little less subtle: from their website – “…a state of the art facility fully permitted and of great promise, now presents a series of structural unexpected issues that require additional levels of monitoring and maintenance that were neither expected nor predictable”. So the State DES, our Conservation Commission, peer review engineers Weston and Sampson, as well as our own town professional engineers all thought it would work better. If only we had consulted our new expert witnesses who, with the benefit of hindsight, will be paid to tell a jury that WP was negligent.
One thing is certain. The lawyers are going to get a big payday. The other thing we can count on is that if there is a settlement, we are unlikely to see any money applied to reducing the tax rate. This year, 25 cents of your tax rate will be used to pay for the lawsuit. It’s going to cost my wife and I $450. Frankly, given the sparse information available, I’d prefer to put the money toward a solution to the problem that I can understand and vote on.
I’m weary of the Selectmen closing the doors into non-public session at every meeting. I understand the need to keep lawyer/client communication private, even if we too are technically the client, but surely there is a way that the town can better inform the citizenry about their reasoning and justification for this course of action. They can’t have it both ways: Tell us that everything is hunky-dory with the town’s waste water capability while they claim in court that we have been damaged to the tune of $10 million dollars.
So I’m going to vote NO on the town budget this year. They’ve cut other things to make room for their lawsuit, and I think most of the town will be just fine under the default budget.