By Matthew Rice
Hartford Town Supervisor Dana Haff and the rest of the town board have had enough.
Tired of Washington County’s refusal to discuss or mediate a matter where the town feels it is entitled to reimbursement, Hartford announced plans to file suit against the county for funds owed from a host agreement involving the former potential dump site.
Although the permit to locate a dump at the site was not renewed in 2011, and it appears unlikely a waste site will be built, town officials said they still feel they are owed money under the terms of the agreement relating to the dump.
Hartford’s Supervisor, Dana Haff, announced the town voted during its regular monthly meeting to file suit seeking payments spelled out in a 1994 Host Package Agreement between the county and the town.
In a statement Haff compared the county to a bully taking the town’s lunch money and comparing any courtroom to the principal’s office.
Under the contract, the county agreed to pick up expenses relating to the maintenance of Eldridge Lane, a narrow dirt road off of county Route 196 which had been slated at the site of an ash dump for the then new Warren-Washington county joint burn plant project. Another portion of the agreement was supposed to pay Hartford $8,000 per year in addition to monies relating to hosting the disposal facility.
Town attorney Robert Winn said the county paid just $15,000 and stopped paying on the host agreement and did not pay towards maintenance costs.
Winn said the funds Hartford is owed represent a “significant benefit” to the town and as a result officials feel they must pursue those funds.
The two municipalities entered into a binding contract so the matter is pretty straight forward – the county said they would pay and they have to honor that contract, Winn said.
“We feel it’s going to be a straightforward lawsuit,” Winn said.
Winn said Supervisor Haff has requested and been rebuffed on numerous occasion when requesting face to face discussion or mediation in the matter.
“It didn’t even have to be binding,” Winn said.
The matter was probably one best suited for arbitration versus litigation, but the county’s refusal to discuss the matter left Hartford with little choice, Winn said.
Winn said he was confident in the town’s position because initially the county claimed it owed Hartford nothing, later sent a letter stating about $16,000 would be paid to the town, only to pay still more.
The county paid Hartford town and school district nearly $20,000 during the summer of 2011, but did so without discussing the matter with representatives from Hartford, Winn said, only letters were exchanged between lawyers.
Washington County Attorney Roger Wickes said he had no comment regarding the suit when reached Jan 12.
“It’s hard to comment on something that hasn’t been filed,” Wickes said. “We’re not going to comment on something that’s going to be litigated so I guess we talk in court if that’s what it comes to,” he said.
Asked if he thought compromise remained possible even with a pending suit, Wickes said he was not optimistic. “It’s hard to arbitrate between the two positions, so I doubt it,” he said.