Mike Newhouse said he’s been able to see the light at the end of the tunnel for a long time. But for town officials, it’s getting a bit brighter after the latest Department of Environmental Protection ruling.
After the DEP Commissioner ruled late Wednesday that he would not reconsider his decision to allow the dismissal of both high school appeals, Newhouse said it did not come as a surprise.
“I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all seen the light at the end of the tunnel from the beginning because we never doubted the validity of the town’s position, and the DEP’s position,” said Newhouse, the Board of Selectmen chairman. “The light has been at the end of the tunnel, it’s just been a matter of how long is the road we need to travel. Because of the rules, that is beyond our control.”
The next step in the appeals process would be for the petitioners to appeal the decision to Superior Court, which must be done within 30 days of Wednesday’s decision.
Kevin MacDonald, who is the spokesman for the 10-resident group appealing the project, did not return several attempts for comment about the appeal dismissal on Thursday.
Abutter Gerry O’Reilly, who is also appealing the school, declined comment when reached by Patch. His attorney was not immediately available for comment.
Reilly’s attorney and MacDonald have indicated in the past that they would be willing to take the school decision to Superior Court, however it is not officially clear if that is what they still plan to do.
Newhouse would not speculate on how long a potential case could take at the Superior Court level. He did say that the cost of the extended appeals continues to grow the longer the process takes, though he didn’t provide a specific estimate of what increase the town is currently looking at.
“It depends when that question is asked, but that number is quantifiable,” said Newhouse. “It’s ever changing because of inflation in terms of labor and materials. That is an answer that the town is prepared to discuss with its consultants. I don’t want us to get ahead of ourselves, because I am not going to presume whether or not there will be another appeal.”
Though Newhouse said only time will tell how much longer it will be before the project gets underway, he did say that Wednesday’s ruling was good news for the town.
“For every milestone that we meet to make the new school become a reality, it is good news,” said Newhouse. “We’re pleased about each one of those milestones. The decision is certainly not a surprise and we look ahead to moving the project forward.”