City set to buy Grandview property

By Frank Lewis

August 24, 2013

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

The city of Portsmouth will purchase two properties on Grandview Avenue to solve two issues simultaneously. By purchasing the properties of Robert and Priscilla Hunt, at 2311 Grandview Ave. and Cindy Newsom at 2315 Grandview Ave., the two agree to drop a lawsuit filed against the city, and the city is able to tear down the houses and use the properties as part of its obligation to the Environmental Protection Agency to correct problems of flooding caused by the Combined Sewer Overflows.

Portsmouth City Council is expected to waive the three readings and pass an ordinance authorizing the appropriation of funds in the amount of $260,000 from CIP Fund 301 for the settlement of Newsom and Hunt vs. city of Portsmouth, filed on June 3, 2010 by attorney Joe Griffith.

“We’re buying the property and they’re dismissing the lawsuits,” Portsmouth City Solicitor John Haas said. “It was a lawsuit about the basement flooding. It worked out so that we could resolve the lawsuits. We’re also buying the property which satisfies them (plaintiffs), and also provides the property that we need for one of the projects in Phase 1 of the Consent Order.”

The property will be used to divert excess water.

“That will be used for underground storage of stormwater,” Portsmouth Wastewater Director Rick Duncan said. “If there’s a big storm, it will go into big pipes on those lots and it won’t run out into anybody’s yard or anybody’s basement.”

Haas said the city had appraisals done on the properties, and the settlement price was in the middle between the city’s appraisals and the homeowners appraisal. Haas said, since the money for the settlement comes out of the CIP, it does not affect the city’s General Fund budget.

“The parties have all agreed,” Haas said. “Everyone is just waiting on Council to approve it.”

Haas said Council members have known about the settlement for over a month, and they have been briefed on the specifics of the case.

Haas said the city was represented by Robert S. Hiller of Schroeder, Maundrell, Barbiere & Powers, and he said the insurance company defended the city in the case but wouldn’t contribute financially.

“Before I got into settlement negotiations with Joe Griffith I wanted to get a feel for if any members of Council had any strong objections,” Haas said. “It just happened to coincide with the fact that because of the way the lawsuit was headed, the claims that were made, the insurance carriers for the city said in a letter I received, even if they (plaintiffs) are successful on their claims, it wouldn’t be covered, so they said, ‘because nothing is covered, we’re going to withdraw counsel as well.’ So it just worked out perfectly. What I was trying to do before I got that letter from them (insurance company) was to get them to chip in some money so the city could get the property cheaper and they wouldn’t do it.”

The breakdown of the settlement is $110,000 for the Newsoms.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.