Supers still considering NYPA lawsuit
By David Avitabile
Schoharie County Supervisors Monday took another step in possibly suing the New York Power Authority for flood damage after Hurricane Irene.
Supervisors agreed to hire an Albany law firm to file a notice of claim against the NYPA.
The notice of claim, which could lead to a lawsuit against the NYPA, will also include the other municipalities in the county that were affected by the flood, including the Middleburgh and Schoharie school districts.
A lawsuit could seek to recover funds to cover damages to town, village, and school properties as well as the loss in taxable assessments of properties.
County officials have said that a surge of water released by the Power Authority significantly raised the water level on August 28.
Any action would not cover damage suffered by residents or private property, said County attorney Michael West.
Some residents have begun to contact attorneys in possible lawsuits against the Power Authority, he said.
Supervisors selected the law firm of Couch and White to file the notice.
The firm is already representing the county in the Power Authority's relicensing effort hoping to get as much funds as possible for the county.
"They are excited to be involved in this effort," Mr. West said of the notice of claim.
The firm agreed to discount their charges by 10 percent, he said.
After the notice is filed, it will be up to the county and the other municipalities, whether to sue the Power Authority.
A notice of claim would be beyond a 90-day window to file a notice, Mr. West said, but the courts are very liberal with such timelines, especially after disasters.
Board Chairman Harold Vroman said discussions have been held with the Power Authority since the flood.
Gilboa Supervisor Tony VanGlad said the NYPA has not come up with a counter offer.
Phil Skowfoe of Fulton said that New York City, which owns the Gilboa dam, could also be included in any lawsuit.
He said that only going after the NYPA was not right.
"If you go after one, you should go after both of them," he said.
The Power Authority, Mr. West said, could file notice against the City.
Mr. Skowfoe also asked why the county has to hire another law firm.
Mr. West said Couch and White is already involved in the relicensing effort with NYPA and know the inner workings of the Power Authority.
The firm, he said, will be better able to represent the county with a much larger staff.
Mr. West said he has notified officials from Montgomery County about the potential lawsuit but is not aware of any other municipalities that are planning to take action.