Movement in possible legal action on Hull well water dispute against city placed in hands of City Council
By Brandi Makuski
Town of Hull Chairman John Holdridge said residents there are preparing to file suit against the city.
Monday’s City Council packet includes several notices of Circumstances of Claims, documents from almost 30 town residents who say they lost water from their residential wells following installation of the city’s Municipal Well #11 in 2012.
City Clerk John Moe said the notices were dropped off with at his office and do not appear to have been prepared by an attorney.
Residents in Hull have argued for over two years the city’s high capacity well- located near the city’s airport and in close proximity to the town- caused reduced water pressure and in some cases, dried up wells entirely. Several residents say they’ve had to pay more than $6,000 to have new wells drilled.
City officials say well testing in the area have shown no marked decrease, and a third-party firm hired by the town said the city had “at most, a minor role” in the wells drying up.
The Council is being asked on Monday to consider whether to accept or deny the claims. But with more than half the Council being newly-elected and having little to no background on the topic, city leaders say they’ll need to offer a crash course on the history of the issue.
“The typical recommendation we’ll be giving is to deny the claims, but I’ll be giving some information on the background,” said Mayor Mike Wiza. “The idea is, you deny the claim and that starts the ball rolling for the legal process. An admission, or acceptance, of the claim would never be recommended by anyone in the city.”
Wiza added the decision was up to the Council, but said accepting the claims would “not be the most prudent thing to do because we don’t have all the details of what they’re claiming.”
“They’re saying they believe the city did this and they want compensation,” Wiza added. “All of those issues are debatable. If the Council says yes, which I hope they don’t do, then it’s over.”
Wiza added he hoped at least some of the new Council members- the majority of whom were first elected in April- have at least some knowledge of the issues from local media.
City Attorney Andrew Beveridge said he couldn’t comment on the circumstances surrounding the claims, but did refer to the notices as a “procedural” hoop before official legal action can begin.
“Denying a claim would be a step that puts the ball back in the court of the claimant to take further action, move the case down the road,” Beveridge said, who said he would also give some background information to the Council prior to a vote. “Even if the claim had merit, it would be very odd for a Council to approve it.”
Town of Hull Chairman John Holdridge said while the town’s legal counsel hasn’t filed formal paperwork relating to legal action against the city, he promised “a long wind of documents” in coming weeks on the matter because the issue at hand was a complicated one.
“To try and report these things in a flash doesn’t do them justice here,” he said.