Dayton’s legal expenses to save the Little Hope dam have risen to more than $54,000.
At the Dayton Town Board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 16, John Hebbring questioned the rising attorneys’ fees during public input.
“I don’t know if the town should be paying for the Little Hope dam problems,” Hebbring said. “That’s an awful lot of money.”
Hebbring wanted to know why the town, rather than the Little Hope Lake District, is paying for the legal costs associated with the dam.
“The county is suing the town, and the lawsuit that has been filed has been filed against the town officials,” Dayton Town Chairman Chris Klein said. “Defending those lawsuits is a town responsibility.”
In June, a hearing on the dam was held before an administrative law judge. The town of Dayton, the lake district and a group of residents who live on what had been the Little Hope Mill Pond challenged a DNR permit to remove the dam.
Dayton has asked the DNR to transfer the dam either to the town or the lake district.
In May, Waupaca County filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the Little Hope Lake District.
Don and Linda Holtebeck and Cathy Miller filed a lawsuit against Chris Klein, Glen Newsome and the Little Hope Lake District in November 2013, alleging election fraud at the special meeting of lake district electors. Judge Raymond Huber stayed the results of the election of lake district board members until the case is resolved.
In January 2014, Klein and an attorney representing Dayton filed three notices of circumstances with Waupaca County. The notices were the first step in litigation seeking damages for removal of the dam.
“I can’t say that there shouldn’t be any more legal fees, but the majority of the legal fees should be finished,” Klein said at the Sept. 16 town board meeting.
“I still fail to understand whose responsibility it is that we are being sued,” Hebbring said.
“I made many, many attempts to work out an arrangement with the county board, county board members and the county board’s attorneys,” Klein said. “In each and every case, we were told they didn’t want to talk with us.”
Klein said the total attorneys’ fees for the county, the lake district, the town and residents has exceeded $200,000 and has resulted in “a terrible and tragic waste.”
He also defended the town’s involvement in legal efforts to save the dam because he believes its removal has affected the groundwater flow near the abandoned landfill.
“We have about $1 million invested in the groundwater monitoring well network,” Klein said.
Klein said he expects a decision from the administrative law judge by Oct. 8.