Town is Sued Over “Slip and Fall” Accident

First Selectman Matt Riiska revealed to the Board of Finance Feb. 22 that the town is being sued for a “slip and fall” incident that occurred three years ago on the slate sidewalk in front of Battell Chapel. 

“It’s not our property, but state statute says we have to maintain sidewalks in the town,” he told members. 

The issue will go to a jury trial next week.

Riiska predicted changes in town procedures as a result. “We will have to have an ordinance for snow clearing and to do some work on more sidewalks,” he said. “At some point, I need to get together with Troy [Lemere, DPW foreman] and talk about walks.”

He said the town had already planned to work on the walk between Berkshire Country Store and the National Iron Bank. The sidewalks soon be installed on Maple Avenue will be brushed concrete and will not present a problem, he said.

Being sued is not opportune for a town that is already trying to save every dime to recover from the havoc of 2023 when a series of natural disasters strained municipal coffers. Riiska said the town’s 2023-24 budget is “okay,” but added that he has instructed town departments “not to spend anything unless it is absolutely necessary.”

“We have enough salt for three more [weather] events. After that, don’t go out,” he said, eliciting laughter from finance members. “Usually, if we have money toward the end of the fiscal year we try to do a couple of things—tree cutting by our crew and drainage work along the roads. But the plan this year is not to do anything unless we absolutely have to.”

The town retrieved $208,000 from its state LoCIP account, which Riiska said “put a good dent” in the town’s $567,000 out-of-pocket expenses for flood recovery.

On a positive note, he reported that Botelle School’s two aged boilers are working without further mishap after each went down on successive days early in the winter. Now considered past permanent repair, their replacement cost is expected to be about $164,000.

Finance Chairman Michael Sconyers said budget work will begin in earnest in April but Riiska, who said his budget “has been on my screen every day for months,” asked that finance members direct questions to him in March so he can have answers in April.

The Grand List is not yet complete and cannot be accurately factored in. “That makes a huge difference,” he said.

Sconyers noted that this is not a revaluation year and there “are not a lot of mansions being built,” but Riiska expects an increase because of the number of homes being remodeled. 

The final budget—which will include Region 7, local education and municipal expenses—will go to a hearing in late April and a May 13 town meeting. 

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