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Wolfeboro legal expenses were $142,097 in 2009


April 01, 2010
WOLFEBORO — Driven by three non-recurring cases and costs for a since-abolished town commission, Wolfeboro's legal costs hit a new high of $142,097 in 2009.

According to a breakdown provided by Town Manager Dave Owen, the largest single category of legal expenses involved tax cases, which cost the town $38,918 or 27.4 percent of the total in 2009. The next largest category, Board of Selectmen, produced $25.270 in legal expenses or 17.8 percent of the total, and the third highest total, $12,680 or 8.9 percent, was for Personnel. The costs for Personnel do not include the cost of union negotiations, which added $7,412 of its own.

The most hopeful details in the breakdown related to 2009 costs which will not recur in 2010 or later years. Together these four items added $18,020 to the legal tab for 2009, or 12.7 percent of the total.

At the top of this list was the $5,106 spent on the case of Frank and Cathy Sykes, who successfully sued the town to block the taking of Brummit Court. As directed by a petitioned article approved by voters in 2007, the board of selectmen attempted to lay out Brummitt Court as an extension of Cropley Hill Road to South Main Street. The Sykes sued and won in Strafford County Superior Court on Nov. 2, 2009, and the town did not appeal that decision.

The next item was the $4,504 spent on the Ginter case, which grew out of the Ginters' conflict with the Historic District Commission (HDC) over the conditions of approval for their house on Stoneham Road. The town reached a settlement with Chris and Kristi Ginter on Nov. 23, 2009.

Right behind the Ginter expense in 2009 was the $4,467 spent by the HDC for consultations with attorneys. While those legal consultations continued into 2010, the March 9 decision by Wolfeboro voters to abolish the HDC put an end to further billings.

Finally, the decision of the board of selectmen on June 3, 2009 to withdraw its appeal of the decision of the Zoning Board of Adjustment to grant Mark and Carol Wiggins a building permit for a single-family home on Trask Mountain Road put a stop to the legal expenses for that case, which ran to $3,943 in 2009.

Other legal expenses of note are $7,392 for Welfare and $3,794 for Code Enforcement (separate from named cases) and expenses for two ongoing cases, Edward & Kelcey ($6,598) and JPS Development ($4,008).

For 2010, the board of selectmen has increased its legal budget from $70,000 to $100,000.

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