Barnet school directors put a lawsuit settlement on hold Tuesday due to snags regarding method of payment.

"We have a settlement in the amount we are willing to accept, but there is a caveat," said Merle Fitzgerald, school board chairman.

It seems one of the defendants (who Fitzgerald declined to identify) has gone through hard times and wants the school district to accept a promissory note until he sells a house to satisfy the settlement.

"I rejected that because I don & #039;t want to put the school district and the town in the banking business," Fitzgerald said of the board & #039;s decision at the school board meeting Tuesday night.

The defendant should do what any other person would have to do in the same situation, Fitzgerald said, explaining that it would be necessary to borrow money.

The board turned the matter back over to lawyer William Fead of Paul, Frank and Collins.

Fitzgerald wouldn & #039;t cite an exact figure, but said the district will see a small amount of money if this deal is successful.

Going to court would cost money and possibly cause the district to come out the loser, Fitzgerald said. "If we go to court and lose, then we will have nothing and the town will owe the lawyers over $100,000."

As it is, the district will receive a relatively small sum of money after 30 percent goes to the state and the attorney fees are paid.

Current legal fees hover below $100,000.

The whole issue stems from building defects that were brought to the public & #039;s attention when odors forced officials to close the school in 1999.

Structural investigation led to the discovery of additional problems.

Overall, the school had to spend nearly $1.2 million between construction work plus costs that involved sending students to other facilities.

To recover costs, the school initiated a lawsuit against the building designer and contractor during the summer of 2000.

In other matters, the board made progress on the upcoming budget.

"We are certainly going to be able to hold the bottom line as far as the budget is concerned, but as far as taxes are concerned, one never knows," said Fitzgerald.


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