Chairman confirms Bethlehem, Casella making another attempt at mediation


2005 proposed settlement to avoid litigation over a zoning amendment ended up being voted down by voters


October 20, 2011
BETHLEHEM —Bethlehem and Rutland, Vt.-based Casella Waste Systems are at it again: Town officials, the company's CEO and their attorneys spent Monday in a mediation attempt at avoiding a pending trial over the 2005 zoning amendment.

Board of Selectmen Chairman David Lovejoy confirmed by his home phone Monday evening that a meeting was currently in progress and the usual selectmen's meeting was canceled. He could not be reached later that evening to confirm who was attending the meeting or even why mediation is being attempted again.

Based on a previous attempt at negotiating in 2005, which ended up failing, the group likely included Casella CEO John Casella and his attorney Bryan Gould, the town's attorney, Brenda Keith of Londonderry Boutin & Altieri, and town officials that included the Board of Selectmen and Planning Board.

According to a Grafton County Superior Court document dated Oct. 12, the meeting was originally scheduled for Oct. 21 at the courthouse but that was canceled and the mediation was bumped up to Oct. 17 and scheduled at another location.

The negotiations are being conducted under Rule 170, which means all proceedings or information relating to those proceedings are confidential.

The town and Casella made another effort at reaching an agreement six years ago, and spent four months in mediation leading up to a proposed settlement in January 2006 that the selectmen and Planning Board ultimately voted to not include on the town warrant in March.

The town insisted on keeping the proceedings confidential, while John Casella said he wanted to make the proposed settlement public.

Eventually the company decided to publicize the proposal in mid January 2006. However, because confidentiality hadn't been waived and both sides agreed not to discuss the mediation, Gould said at the time that it might differ from the mediated agreement.

In that deal the town would have received $6 per ton tipping fee for waste accepted outside of Bethlehem and $40 per ton for waste from inside the town; a host community agreement would pay the town an estimated $10.3 million over the life of the facility; the official closing date for NCES would be Oct. 1, 2016; the town would amend its zoning to allow NCES to expand the landfill past the 51-acre limit; NCES would give up the right to expand past State IV; all litigation associated with the zoning ordinance will cease.

Though the proposed settlement didn't make the March vote, Casella eventually roused enough support to bring the issue to a special town meeting in early June 2006. There, voters gave the proposal its final deathblow when they rejected it.

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