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Judge: Hounsfield liable for $160K legal bill over Galloo Island Wind Farm development


SACKETS HARBOR — A state Supreme Court judge has ruled the town of Hounsfield is responsible for a Watertown law firm’s $160,615 bill for services rendered related to the Galloo Island Wind Farm development.

Judge James P. McClusky granted summary judgment on behalf of Schwerzmann & Wise PC, which had sued the town in January 2013 claiming it was never paid for work done between December 2009 and July 2012. The firm was serving as the town’s attorney in 2007 when Upstate NY Power Corp. proposed building a 246-megawatt wind farm on Galloo Island, which is within the town. In 2008, the town and Upstate NY Power reached an agreement calling for the company to pay Schwerzmann & Wise’s bills in connection with the project’s development, up to $75,000.

In early February 2010, the town of Henderson filed a legal challenge to the project, contesting the placement of a transmission line through the town; later that month the town board passed a resolution authorizing Schwerzmann & Wise to defend the town in the action. Hounsfield prevailed in the action, but Schwerzmann & Wise’s legal bills exceeded the $75,000 that Upstate NY Power agreed to reimburse.

According to court documents filed Tuesday at the Jefferson County clerk’s office, Judge McClusky determined that even though at some point it became evident the developer no longer was going to be reimbursing the town for legal bills related to the project, this did not relieve the town of its obligation to be responsible for the law firm’s subsequent bills. He entered a judgment against the town in the full amount due, plus interest.

The Galloo Island Wind Farm project has stalled, with no progress being made on it for well over a year. The project suffered a serious setback in June when the state Public Service Commission denied Upstate NY Power’s application to construct a 50.6-mile electrical transmission line that would connect the wind farm to the Fitzpatrick-Edic Substation in the town of Mexico, Oswego County.

That followed an October 2011 determination by the New York Power Authority that NYPA would not enter into a power-purchase agreement with the project.

In early December, a Buffalo engineering firm sued Upstate NY Power and related entities in Supreme Court claiming it was due $360,000 for engineering work done on the project. The company, American Consulting Professionals of New York PLLC , has filed a mechanic’s lien in that amount on the property and is asking a judge to, among other things, order that the property be foreclosed upon and sold, with any proceeds going toward the allegedly unpaid bill.

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