Two-day marathon mediation pays off

At long last the nightmare lawsuit Amity Regional School District was embroiled in with Atlas Construction is over. And Amity survived.

According to school board Vice-Chairman Dr. Thomas Duplinsky and school Atty. Timothy Fisher, Amity will received a settlement of $2.7 million with $2.425 million in cash within the next 30 days and the balance, $275,000, over the next 2 ½ years. In addition, Atlas dropped its $6.5 million suit against Amity.

The Amity Board of Education spent two days last week in marathon mediation meetings with Atlas Construction and six additional parties also involved in the suit. The groups were; Atlas, the general contractor, I.N.A., an assurity company, McGuyire Group Inc., the artechitect of record, Lukmire Partnership, who designed a portion of the building, S3E, the engineering firm, Weiler Assoc., who did the survey work, HRH Corp./HRH/Atlas, the company that acquired Atlas and Amity.

All, according to Fisher, agreed to the settlement and will participate in paying Amity its settlement.

"This will end all litigation on the design and construction of the high school," Fisher said.

In the mid 1990's Atlas Construction Co. of Stamford completed renovations to Amity High School. In 1997 Atlas Construction sued Amity for $5 million, alleging Amity had breached its contract when it failed to provide proper project specifications.

Amity in turn sued Atlas Construction in 1999 for $15 million over shoddy construction including the mold buildup in the high school auditorium, which necessitated the remediation of panel 15 and the bonding of $2.85 million in 1999 to repair the problem. Amity also filed suit against six other parties including Atlas's insurance carrier, Insurance Co. of North America.

The mediator, Patrick Coughlin, a professional full-time mediator praised the ABOE for its hard work, strong leadership and responsible decision making skills Fisher said.

The ABOE voted unanimously to accept the offer.

Fisher said the settlement was good.

"This was the best deal we could have gotten. If we had gone to court we would have spent more on the legal expenses and expert witnesses," he said. Adding that due to the type of insurance polices carried by some of the companies, declining balance insurance policies, the longer litigation is extended the less that is paid.

According to ABOE Finance Director Andrew Potcheny Amity has paid Fisher $382,000 through November. December and January bills were not available.

Woodbridge First Selectman Amey Marrella said she was glad the suit was now history.

"I can't speak to the amount (settled upon) I wasn't involved in the negotiations. It is a good thing for Amity to put this suit behind them," she said.

Orange First Selectman Mitchell Goldblatt said he had mixed feelings.

"Overall I am satisfied that this has been completed. Closure on this issue that has been gnawing at the District for a number of years is a good thing. It's a shame the settlement couldn't have been larger. Bethany First Selectman Craig Stahl did not return calls placed to him.