NELLISTON - Rebuffed by insurance companies, the village is turning to the legal system to recoup money it spent to replace fire hydrants damaged in separate accidents last year.
The drivers in those accidents, William T. Sherman II of Marrero, La., and Allisa Dodson of Palatine Bridge, are now facing lawsuits - an unusual step for a municipality of fewer than 600 residents that hasn't initiated civil court action since 1995, according to court records.
"It's unfortunate it had to go that way, but insurance companies haven't cooperated," Mayor Russel Vance said. "It's the route we had to take to recoup our losses. We are a small village on a shoestring budget here, and every little bit counts."
According to the suits filed June 17 in state Supreme Court in Fonda, Dodson's accident occurred on or near Aug. 5, 2013, when her 1999 Ford pickup truck struck a hydrant on Ehle Street. Sherman allegedly struck a hydrant on East Main Street with his 2005 Mercedes on the same day, the complaint says, but Vance thinks the accident occurred Oct. 27, 2013, a date referenced elsewhere in the court filing.
Village Attorney Gregory Dunn of Canajoharie, who filed the lawsuits on behalf of the village, did not return a phone message on Friday. Sherman and Dodson could not be reached.
Vance did not know how much the village spent to replace the hydrants, but he guessed it was about $10,000 to replace each fixture and make other repairs along the water line to make them operable.
"You have to replace the inside - all that cast iron that could crack," he said. "You have to be on the safe side and replace them with new parts, and that's part of the problem."
Vance said insurance companies would prefer the village obtain used parts to replace the hydrants. The lawsuit notes: "There is no 'used fire hydrant' market from which to find a substantially similar and workable replacement."