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Town asks for triple damages and legal fees in Wright-Pierce lawsuit


by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News
June 12, 2014
WOLFEBORO — Chairman Linda Murray announced at the June 4 Board of Selectmen meeting that the town had filed motions in federal court requesting triple damages under New Hampshire's consumer protection statute and for reimbursement of legal expenses in its successful suit against Wright-Pierce Engineers, following the failure of an effluent disposal system the engineering firm had designed.

In his 14-page decision handed down on May 15, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph A. DiClerico Jr. found that Wright-Pierce had violated the New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act and was liable for minimum double damages as a result. The judge also set the base damages at $7,658,532.42, meaning that the minimum double damages award would be $15,397,064.84.

The town was given a deadline of May 20 to notify the court whether it intends to seek damages in excess of double damages (the law provides for up to triple damages). A second deadline of May 30 was given for the town to submit motions for damages and to award the costs of the litigation. The town did give notice of its intent to file for triple damages by the May 20 deadline.

At the June 5 Wolfeboro Area Chamber of Commerce meeting the next morning Murray read the following statement with the details of the filings: "On May 30th the Town filed one motion in Federal Court for Treble damages and second motion for Attorney fees of $1,373,987 and costs $51,093.85, totaling $1,425,080,85. In one of Judge DiClerico's prior rulings, he did not award expert witness fees/costs. But the Town did footnote that it had spent $521,483.73 on expert witness fees/costs and asked the court to award these fees/costs to the extent recoverable in NH."

Murray noted that the town is currently in settlement negotiations with Wright-Pierce and that there will be a 30-day period after the judge issues his final ruling on the triple damages and legal costs. If negotiations fail Wright-Pierce may file an appeal of the verdict.

Starting Home

Robert Pierpont, Wolfeboro resident and retired U.S. Navy chief petty officer, gave a presentation on "Starting Home, Inc.," a facility for veterans that offers temporary housing and transitional help located in two wings of the former Mountain View Nursing Home in Ossipee.

Pierpont began by stating that veterans returning home are having a hard time. There are an estimated 440 homeless veterans in New Hampshire he said.

The proposal for converting two wings of the former nursing home for a veterans shelter was made by former County Commissioner Dorothy Solomon to the Carroll County delegation on Oct. 13, 2013, and she was given 18 months to come back with a firm, costed and funded proposal.

Architect Tony Fallon is developing a reconstruction plan that is friendly and cost-effective. Pierpont presented Fallon's drawing of the converted wings, which would house 16-18 veterans at a time. Only male veterans can be served at this time per county commissioners' decision. Military discipline will be imposed and no alcohol will be allowed.

The facility will include a training room to help the veterans get jobs. Pierpont said he and others are going to every board of selectmen in the county asking them to consider veterans for jobs, as well as appealing to chambers of commerce, the Lions and Rotary for support and help. Many veterans have had training as firemen, corpsmen and MPs and should be ready for civilian employment.

Phase I is to get the facility built, he said. Starting Home has a mission statement, business plan and bylaws and has filed for 501(c)3 non-profit status with the IRS. Most board members are veterans themselves, like Pierpont, or spouses of veterans, and Sens. Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter are backing the effort and helping in the search for funding. UNH will also help with the search for grants.

"The biggest problem is money," Pierpont said. Contributions may be made to Starting Home Inc. and mailed to PO Box 2085, Wolfeboro, NH 03894. Those interested in helping move this project forward can contact Pierpont at 569-4779. Contact by email is available through the website www.vethomecc.org.

Other business

The board received updates on all capital projects. Please see separate story on the front page.

Finance Director Pete Chamberlin gave his monthly expenditure and revenue report for May. Overall expenses are at 38.5 percent through 41.7 percent of the year. There is a concern about revenues in light of late mailing of tax bills and upcoming school district obligations, so the board signed a Tax Anticipation Note resolution authorizing short-term borrowing up to $1 million from Meredith Village Savings Bank at a rate of 1.63 percent.

Chamberlin noted that the municipal bond sale will take place on June 11.

Selectmen renewed the appointments of Dave Senecal as health officer and Schelley Rondeau as deputy health officer.

The board also renewed its septage agreement with the Plymouth Water & Sewer District for five years at the reduced rate of $100 per year. The agreement allows large haulers from Wolfeboro to dispose of septage in Plymouth and thus not run the risk of overloading Wolfeboro's plant.

A proposal from Kathy Barnard to close off two parking spaces on Railroad Avenue in front of Bailey's Bubble ice cream stand after 5 p.m. was tabled in order to get more information for discussion at next meeting.

Selectmen approved the final version of 2014 goals set at the last meeting.

The board also revised guidelines for the Capital Improvement Program (CIP). Key changes: for all departments to spread proposed projects over 10 years; and to fund smaller projects every year, rather than every other year. Selectman Sarah Silk proposed looking into acquiring the Freight House behind the railroad station if it comes up for sale.

Temporary event permits were approved for the Fourth Annual Duathlon at Albee Beach on July 26; for the family event known as Nickfest to be held at Brewster Field on July 19; for the annual Relay For Life event at The Nick on June 21 and 22; for a new Civil War Encampment sponsored by the Wolfeboro Historical Society at the Clark House complex on June 28 and 29; for Downtown Walking Tours by the society on July 5, July 26, Aug. 1 and Aug. 29; and for the Wolfeboro Public Library trustees to hold its annual free Ice Cream Social on July 12 at the library.

The next meeting of the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen will be on Wednesday, June 18, at 6:30 p.m. at the Wolfeboro Public Library meeting room.

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