Region 12 sues Bridgewater over school plan
The legal action is the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of how the region -- which includes Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington -- should solve its elementary school facility problems.
Bridgewater and Roxbury officials have argued that before any referendum on a possible 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.
Last Friday, the board took steps for the Superior Court in Litchfield to resolve the question of whether a referendum for funding a consolidated elementary facility 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 Superior Court for a judgment against Bridgewater in the wake of that town's earlier resolution not to comply with a request to post and to hold a referendum on the funding of a regional consolidated elementary school.
A referendum had been scheduled for June 19, but that was called off due to a technical glitch.
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," 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 there may not be a quick settlement.
"We will defend it vigorously," Stuart said. "We will probably put in a countersuit."
Officials from Roxbury and Bridgewater -- the two smaller towns in the region -- 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 more money is spent on the concept of consolidation.
The two towns 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.