Selectmen Quell Adams House Dispute

Board of Selectmen find desired compromise after passing a motion that required two arguing parties to hash out their differences in the hallway.

Sometimes the best place to solve a local dispute isn't around the big wooden desk in the main conference room of . Sometimes all it really takes is asking two arguing parties to step out into the hallway and have a long overdue conversation.

That is exactly what happened at Wednesday night's meeting of the Board of Selectmen. Project managers overseeing a construction project at the Adams House on Front Street made a formal request to board members to grant them a four-week extension on a scaffolding permit issued in November.

Making the request was Bruce Greenwald, of the Marblehead-based and project manager Mark Driscoll, both of whom described how the restoration project was hindered by a winter season that produced extreme low temperatures and more than seven feet of snow.

"It was a really hard winter, we had 90 inches of snow and many cold days where our workers just couldn't work," Greenwald said, adding that inclement weather bumped the project about three or four weeks behind schedule.

Although selectmen said they understood how this year's punishing winter weather could affect the estimated completion date, many voiced sympathy for Jay Sahagian, owner of , a restaurant located next door to the construction site.

The rows of scaffolding needed for the project, they said, has limited available parking in front of the restaurant and has left some local customers wondering if it is open for business at all.

"I've compromised with this project all winter," Sahagian said as he addressed the board. "If we make another compromise now, I'm losing money. I talk to people every day in town who think that I'm closed because of this. I've compromised and I've compromised and this project has really hurt me financially."

Sahagian went on to argue that other area contractors have told him that the Adams House project is one that would need an eight-person crew of workers to be completed on time and that he has photographs that show Driscoll has only had four men working on weekdays. That estimate, however, was one that both Greenwald and Driscoll took exception to.

Being a Good Neighbor 

"Construction is construction," Greenwald said, adding that he felt the board's request that workers erect a sign announcing that The Barnacle was open for business was a responsibility that should be on the restaurant owner, not those completing a restoration project next door.

That response to Sahagian's request drew a strong rebuke from board members and was what prompted Michael Rockett to request that Greenwald, Driscoll and Sahagian step out into the hallway and come back inside when they had reached an agreement rather than "chase this thing around the room all night."

"You're here asking us to do something and a suggestion was made by the most injured party in all this and you kind of poo-pooed it," Chair James E. Nye said. "If I were you, I'd be trying to help his as much as I could. You have got to be neighborly."

Sharing Nye's view on the dispute was board member Judith R. Jacobi, who said the biggest problem she is seeing is a lack of consideration between the two parties.

"I'm a neighbor to this project too and I feel like the real problem here is a lack of neighborliness," Jacobi said.

Stepping Outside 

After spending 15 minutes talking out their problems in the hallway, you would have thought the three men were old friends. They admitted to board members that they had "kissed and made up," and had come up with a plan that they can agree on.

"You see, this is how we should have been doing it the whole time, with all three of you at the table together," Rockett said.

"If we were up here like this earlier in the night, I would have choked him," Sahagian said jokingly, drawing a laugh from the handful of residents in attendance.

Greenwald and Driscoll agreed to have all of the scaffoldings on the left side of the building down by April 15 and will help put together a sign indicating that The Barnacle is open for business and that residents can park in front of the jersey barriers lining the construction site.

That way, the April 15 deadline will mean that all six of the town's parking spaces will be made available to local residents looking to stop in to The Barnacle for a meal. 

Before sending both parties on their way, Jacobi had one more suggestion.

"I know that the people living at the Adams House really want to see this project finished too, and I think we should ask them to start eating at The Barnacle," she said.


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