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Snowplowing dispute continues; Town of Waukesha looks at new contract

Judge allows questioning to continue over payment of old bills

Oct. 5, 2011

Waukesha - With a court dispute over a contractor's snow removal services for the Town of Waukesha last winter moving ahead at a seemingly glacial pace, the Town Board is set to hire a new snowplowing contractor at a special meeting Thursday even as the fight continues over whether its existing contract is valid.

Waukesha County Circuit Judge J. Mac Davis settled some preliminary questions in the case Wednesday - including denial of a request that contractor Eric S. Jacobson Grading Co. be paid $176,000 in funds already set aside by the Town Board toward the $355,477 that he says he's still owed for last winter's services.

Attorney Doug Hoffer of the town's law firm, de la Mora & de la Mora, objected to the payment, saying it was only intended as full settlement of the disputed bill. Jacobson's attorney Dean Richards argued unsuccessfully that the amount could be paid while the parties argued before a jury how much more was owed.

Davis said too many facts were in dispute and the arguments too "murky" for him to release the funds, which the town has deposited with the clerk of courts.

Davis allowed the town's attorney three months to question up to 14 of the firm's subcontracted snowplow drivers. Davis granted additional time, but only after criticizing the attorney's subpoena seeking 56 types of information from one subcontractor, Jacobson's brother, as overly broad and burdensome.

"The subpoena looks like a fishing expedition," Davis said. He also said the numerous proposed subpoenas of other drivers raised concerns about the power of government to harass and intimidate private parties.

Rescheduling the final pretrial hearing from December to early spring, Davis quipped, "We'll plow through it."

Jacobson has provided snowplowing services to the town since 1984, but a new contract was required Nov. 1. One giving Jacobson "full control" of plowing activities, unlike the prior contract, was signed shortly before a new Town Board took charge, the result of a recall election that ousted the old majority.

The new Town Board later adopted new procedures that it said Jacobson ignored. As a result, town attorney Hector de la Mora claimed Jacobson breached the contract and the town did not pay him for his services last winter.

Richards, Jacobson's attorney, filed a counterclaim, seeking payment of the full bill plus interest and fees.

Richards said in an interview Wednesday that even though Jacobson has two more years on his contract, he won't provide plowing services for the upcoming winter.

"If they don't pay, we don't have to work," he said.

After notifying the Town Board of that fact, Town Chairman Angie Van Scyoc said the board sought proposals from other contractors. Five proposals were submitted and the board interviewed two contractors Wednesday.

A special Town Board meeting has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday to award a 2011-'12 snow removal and ice control contract.

Richards said Jacobson will try to find alternate work this winter. However, the possibility of a claim against the town exists if he loses income since he has two years remaining on his contract, Richards said.

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