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Watertown law firm sues Hounsfield over wind power–related legal bills

SACKETS HARBOR – Watertown law firm Schwerzmann & Wise PC has filed a lawsuit against the town of Hounsfield over an allegedly unpaid $160,000 bill for legal services the town provided in connection with the development of the Galloo Island Wind Farm.

The firm had filed a notice of claim with the town in January, a necessary precursor to any legal action against a municipality, but having received no response, filed state Supreme Court action Monday at the Jefferson County clerk’s office.

According to the complaint, the firm was acting as the town’s attorney in 2007 when Upstate NY Power Corp. proposed building a 246-megawatt wind farm on Galloo Island, which is within the town. The project, which remains unbuilt, required town review and approval, for which Schwerzmann & Wise provided legal assistance. In 2008, the town and Upstate NY Power reached an agreement calling for the company to pay Schwerzmann & Wise’s bills in connection with the project’s development, up to $75,000.

In early February 2010, the town of Henderson filed a legal challenge to the project, contesting the placement of a transmission line through the town, and later that month the town board passed a resolution authorizing Schwerzmann & Wise to defend the town in the action. Hounsfield prevailed in the action, but an administrative law judge recommended earlier this year that the state Public Service Commission dismiss Upstate NY Power’s application to construct the line.

Schwerzmann & Wise, which no longer acts as the town’s attorney, maintains that the town owes it $160,615 in legal fees for services related to wind power development between December 2009 and July 2012 and is asking that a judge award it that amount.