More than four years after the initial complaint was filed, the lawsuit against the town, the school department and various construction companies by homeowners over damage they say was caused by construction of the new Cole Middle School is slated to begin Monday.
Scheduled as a 10-day jury trial, it will be heard before Superior Court Judge Bennett R. Gallo at Kent County Courthouse.
Three couples who live on Sarah’s Trace, just west of Cole, say construction of the new Cole Middle School caused cracks in their walls and foundations, threatening the structural integrity of their houses.
Construction on the new school begin in fall 2009. Homeowners Chris and Sue Lamendola, at 50 Sarah’s Trace, and Tom Hogan and Cynthia Pelosi, 40 Sarah’s Trace, sought help from the town early on, after they said they noticed cracks in their homes. They went public with their complaints in November 2009, filing a police report to document to the damage.
At issue, according to the homeowners, were the vibrations caused by construction machinery. Homeowners asked contractors to stop using large vibratory rollers to compact the earth but the construction team said they could not guarantee the structural integrity of the school building without using the rollers and use was continued.
Seismic readings taken by engineers hired by the contractor failed to show that the vibrations were sufficient to cause the kind of structural damage reported by the homeowners so insurers refused to cover costs of repairs. The homeowners, meanwhile, questioned the validity and timing of the seismic readings.
The Lamendolas and Hogan/Pelosis filed their lawsuit in February 2011, with plaintiffs Keith and Wendy Amelotte, at 35 Sarah’s Trace, signing on a short time later.
In addition to the town and the school department, the list of defendants includes Strategic Building Solutions (which oversaw and coordinated construction), Fleet Construction Co. (contractor), Gilbane Building Co. (contractor), Manafort Brothers (site development contractors), Paul B. Aldinger and Assoc. (engineer), and SMMA (architect).
In July, the Town Council approved a settlement with the three Sarah’s Trace homeowners that reduced their property tax bills by 50 percent over four years (2013-16). The cost to the town will be around $70,000 – the exact cost won’t be determined until the tax rate is set for fiscal year 2016. Included in the settlement, the town agreed to pay up to $8,000 in legal fees and court costs.
The homeowners (plaintiffs) have so far subpoenaed 16 people to testify in the trial. Here’s the list of those subpoenaed as of Feb. 24, 2015:
Richard Buonauito – member of the East Greenwich Town Council from 2008 to 2010
Peter Calcagni – superintendent at Manafort Brothers
Bob Durante – member of the EG School Committee from 2008-12
Jay Gowell – School Building Committee chairman from 2005 to 2012
Jean Ann Guliano – member of the School Committee from 2006 to 2010, chairwoman 2009 to 2010
Ilene Hoffman – resident of 47 Lillibridge Drive; has complained about damage to their home from the construction
Peter Hoffman – resident of 47 Lillibridge Drive; has complained about damage to their home from the construction
Michael Isaacs – president of the East Greenwich Town Council from 2004 to present.
Victor Mercurio – school superintendent from 2009 to present
Matthew Oliverio – lawyer for the district now and at the time of the Cole construction
Susan Records – member of the School Committee from 2008 to 2014
Jody Richards – engineer for Aldinger & Assoc.
Michael Rongione – managing engineer for Pare Corp., an engineering company hired by EGSD in 2010 to evaluate potential damage to Sarah’s Trace houses
John Walwood – project manager at Manafort Brothers
Christopher Whitney – lawyer specializing in construction law, hired by EGSD in 2010
Mary Ellen Winters – member of the School Committee from 2008 to present; member of the School Building Committee 2008 to present
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