The attorney for the town and school district was blunt Thursday night with his advice to the neighbors of the under-construction Glover School. He said they should "pool their resources and hire an attorney."
Neither the school district nor the town government was able to do more to resolve their complaints about cracked walls and foundations than it already has, said Pat Costello, a partner with the Boston firm of Louison, Costello, Condon & Pfaff.
"The town has done all it can and more," Costello said.
He said he understood how frustrating the situation is for the homeowners. "We want to work with you to bring closure for you on these issues," Costello said.
But when pressed on what the town might do, he said it would hurt the process if the town got involved.
The more than two dozen neighbors who came to the meeting in the music room at the Village School were frustrated. One said he was "offended" by Costello's message.
"That is ridiculous and insulting to tell us we are on our own," said neighbor Barton Hyte. "You are throwing us under the bus."
Costello said state law was very specific. The blasting company, Maine Drilling and Blasting, has a strict liability to pay for the damages it caused.
Twenty-seven homeowners along Alden, Columbia, Homestead Roads and Tedesco Street have filed claims against Maine Drilling and Blasting. Most of the houses where the owners say they now have cracks and other problems are on the same ledge formation as that of the school, but many of them are outside a 250-foot radius from the blast site, which is supposed to be the potential damage zone.
To build the foundation for the new $25 million school, the construction company had to blast away a substantial amount of rock.
The blasting company, after a post-blast inspection of the homes, sent the homeowners a form letter denying their claims and suggesting that they file a claim with their personal homeowners' insurance company.
"If I were representing you, I would send a poison pen letter to the insurance company, demanding that it pay up or go to court," Costello said.
He noted that the insurance companies were liable for treble damages if the court finds the blasting company caused the damages to the homes.
Several homeowners said they were considering filing suit, but they were not sure who they would sue. In addition to the blasting company and its insurance company, several suggested they might also sue the general contractor, G&R Construction, and possibly the town for not protecting their properties from the school construction.
Costello, who has been representing cities and towns for 25 years, said he would expect any suit against the town would be dismissed quickly.
The neighbors are planning to hold a meeting in the next couple of weeks, where they will decide on the next steps.
"We will write a formal complaint letter and send to all involved parties (including various insurance companies), stating that there are 27 or more houses that have sustained damage," wrote Kaarina Kvaavik, a neighbor, after the meeting.
School Superintendent Dr. Greg Maass said he has sent the claims of 15 homeowners to USI Insurance Services of New England, the insurance company for the blasting company. The company is based in Manchester, N.H.