Region 12 sues Bridgewater
Bridgewater and Roxbury officials have argued that before any referendum on a consolidated elementary school occurs, the educational plan that formed the three-town Region 12 four decades ago, needs to be amended.
In April, the school board authorized its attorney to try to prevent further litigation, but the board chairman Irene Allan said if that is not possible, "We're going to court."
That's what happened last week.
On June 22 the board took steps for the court to resolve the question of whether a referendum for funding a consolidated elementary school would be determined by a separate vote in each town, or by a vote of the region as a whole.
Attorneys representing the board filed a complaint in Litchfield Superior Court for a declaratory judgment against Bridgewater in the wake of that town's earlier resolution not to comply with a request to hold a referendum on the funding of a regional consolidated elementary school.
A referendum had been scheduled for June 19, but that was cancelled because of a technical glitch.
Ms. Allan said in a press release last Friday that "a majority of Board members and many others believe that" state statutes require "the issue of funding such a referendum be decided on a region-wide basis."
"Others feel differently, making going to court the only way to obtain a definitive ruling on the issue," Ms. Allan said.
She said the board "would like to minimize the expense of this litigation by working cooperatively with all parties to bring the case to a prompt conclusion. We invite the Town of Bridgewater to do the same."
Bridgewater First Selectman Bill Stuart's reaction indicates, however, there may not be any quick settlement.
"It's great to get an apology on Monday and a lawsuit on Friday," the First Selectman said, referring to an apology from the Region 12 board the town received regarding the exclusion of Bridgewater members from a litigation committee meeting.
"We will defend it vigorously," Mr. Stuart said, remarking the board has asked for damages including legal fees.
"We will probably put in a countersuit," he said. "They just don't know how to play nice."
Officials from Roxbury and Bridgewater argue a change from town elementary schools to a consolidated regional elementary school is "such a material, substantial, profound and fundamental change to the original approved educational plan" that the 40-year-old plan must be amended before any other funds are expended on the concept of consolidation.
The Region 12 board's attorney has opined that there was never a binding promise to retain schools in each of the three towns.
The two towns had said they would refuse to notice a referendum on a consolidated elementary school unless the majority of voters in each town approve an amendment to the educational plan that replaces town elementary schools with a consolidated elementary school.
In April the board authorized its attorney, George Kelly, to contact attorneys for Roxbury and Bridgewater to try to come to some agreement.
But the board authorized Mr. Kelly to prepare and file a court motion for a declaratory judgment to determine which opinion is correct if they could not come to an agreement.
Region 12 Schools Superintendent Bruce Storm said in the press release the same issue is being argued in Region 14 and is likely to surface in other regions as their school infrastructure ages.
"It carries serious implications for how regional school districts make decisions to carry out their responsibilities for the maintenance of school buildings on behalf of their students," he said in the press release.