Bath council OKs $1.2M settlement with West Bath

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BATH — The City Council granted final approval Wednesday to spending $1.2 million to settle a 2-year-old lawsuit with West Bath.

The council also gave preliminary approval to a measure aimed at relieving concerns about parking outside the Winnegance General Store at 36 High St.

The panel voted, 6-1, with Councilor Kyle Rogers opposed, to borrow for the $1.2 million payment.

The settlement agreement and bond ordinance received preliminary council approval Dec. 3. Both passed, 6-1, with Rogers opposed.

West Bath sued Regional School Unit 1 and member city Bath to recover $1.9 million the town believes it overpaid in the school district’s first four years of existence. The case, which was scheduled to be tried this month, was postponed by Sagadahoc County Superior Court Justice Andrew Horton pending the City Council decision.

The settlement eliminates the need for a trial.

“I couldn’t vote to settle because the entire financial accountability was laid in the lap of the Bath taxpayers,” Rogers said in an email after the Dec. 3 meeting. “I was disappointed that absolutely no accountability was placed on (City Solicitor) Roger Therriault or (former RSU 1 Superintendent) William Shuttleworth.”

Horton ruled in June that RSU 1 overcharged West Bath more than $1.9 million, but stopped short of ordering reimbursement of the overcharges, choosing to leave that issue and others to be decided at trial.

The lawsuit, filed in October 2012, claimed West Bath should have been assessed a total of $8.2 million over the course of four years, but instead paid $10.1 million. The suit claimed RSU 1 owes West Bath $1.9 million, plus interest.

Because of West Bath’s overpayment, Bath underpaid RSU 1 by $1.6 million, City Manager Bill Giroux said Dec. 1. The $1.2 million settlement was the result of negotiations between West Bath and Bath, he explained.

The insurance carrier for RSU 1 will also pay West Bath $50,000, according to a West Bath press release.

While West Bath had included Arrowsic and Woolwich in the lawsuit, claiming that they had underpaid, the amount was small enough for Horton to dismiss those towns from the case, the manager said.

Horton said in his June 17 decision that the cost-sharing mistake led to greater education bills for West Bath and smaller ones for Bath, Arrowsic and Woolwich. Phippsburg was not named in the lawsuit.

Bath will borrow the $1.2 million through a 10-year bond, paying about $130,000 a year, Giroux said.

Winnegance Store parking

Councilors also unanimously approved the conversion of a section of High Street in front of the Winnegance General Store to one-way traffic. City staff have worked with the Parking and Transportation Committee, store owners and neighbors about parking demands created by the store’s opening this year, according to a Dec. 10 city memo.

Parking demand ended up being higher than anticipated, causing conflicts with neighbors and an adjacent day-care provider. The preliminary solution is to convert the street segment, a loop up from the main part of High Street, with traffic running southbound and parking allowed only on the east side of the street.

The permanent solution proposed would widen the segment by four to six feet, allowing two parking lanes and one through-lane, according to the city.

The City Council will vote on the matter a second time on Jan. 7, 2015.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.