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Hadley Select Board approves settlement of more than $500,000 in lawsuit over collapse of dike

This 2009 photo shows aA section of the Connecticut River dike in Hadley that collapsed.

This 2009 photo shows aA section of the Connecticut River dike in Hadley that collapsed. BULLETIN FILE PHOTO Purchase photo reprints »

HADLEY — The Select Board has approved a settlement worth more than $500,000 in a lawsuit over the collapse of part of the Connecticut River dike in 2009.

The suit was filed in early 2011 against the engineering and construction companies that were in the midst of repairing the dike when it collapsed — Northampton consulting firm Stantec, Mass-West Construction of West Springfield, and Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. of Hartford, Conn.

Repairs to the Hadley dike, which was built in 1928 as a bulwark against Connecticut River flooding, began in January 2003 after a crack was detected. Stantec engineered the project and Mass-West did the construction. The repairs were just two weeks away from completion when part of the dike collapsed, increasing the cost of the project from an anticipated $300,000 to over $1.3 million.

Hadley received an $800,000 grant from the state to fund repairs, and the town paid for the remainder of the work.

The town’s lawsuit alleged that the primary cause of the collapse was poor quality work by Mass-West Construction and deficient materials, and that Stantec should have known of the construction problems.

The settlement includes a payment of $350,000, which the town has received, and the waiver of nearly $165,000 in claims the consulting and contracting companies have against the town for unpaid fees. The settlement was reached nearly two weeks ago and released last week.

“That’s great news,” said board member Gloria DiFulvio.

The town has paid more than $215,000 in legal fees and to hire outside consultants to evaluate the cause of the collapse since the suit was filed in early 2011. The total value of the settlement to the town, including the waiver of the unpaid costs and deducting the costs of litigation, is just under $300,000.

“We’ve signed all the paperwork. The checks have all cleared,” said Town Administrator David Nixon. “You put in all the lawyer fees and we’re ahead by $300,000, roughly.”

At a meeting with a crowded agenda last week, the Select Board also approved a job description for hiring a new full-time fire chief. The description does not detail the level of authority the fire chief will have over hiring and firing within the fire department, a decision that will be made at the annual Town Meeting, but it lists the required qualifications and duties. An outside consultant’s study in July found that the town, which currently has a part-time fire chief and only one full-time firefighter, does not have an adequate fire department for a community of its size given the large commercial area.

The board also endorsed a Department of Environmental Protection feasibility study into the prospect of building three anaerobic digesters — a system for converting waste into energy — on University of Massachusetts land in Hadley.

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