Sides agree to Pennichuck eminent domain schedule

More than two years after the city of Nashua started the eminent domain process to take Pennichuck Water Works, the two parties have agreed on a trial date — but it’s more than a year away.

Attorneys for both the city and Pennichuck, a number of town attorneys and intervenors met April 8 at the Public Utilities Commission in Concord to work out a schedule for the eminent domain case.

The trial is scheduled to begin in September 2006, meaning that a decision by the PUC may not come until 2007.

“If you think about how long it took us to get to where we are today, it’s no surprise it’s going to take 18 months to get to the end of the process,” said Steven Camerino, attorney for Pennichuck.

The procedural schedule, which was expected to be approved by the PUC, includes three technical sessions, and a day when all parties go on tour to view Pennichuck’s water systems. It also designates more than two dozen deadlines for which certain legal paperwork is due.

The eminent domain process started in 2002, when Philadelphia Suburban Corp. offered to buy the utility for $106 million. That deal fell through, and the city has been pursuing eminent domain ever since. It filed its case in March 2003.

Shortly before that, city residents voted in favor of proceeding with the acquisition.

Last year, those in favor of taking Pennichuck formed the Merrimack Valley Regional Water District to manage the water system if the city is successful in the eminent domain fight.

Also discussed at the April 8 meeting was a “data room,” in which documents pertinent to the case will be held in a room at Pennichuck’s Merrimack headquarters. The data room will be run by the McLane Law Firm.

People who wish to view documents will first have to call the law firm in order to view the documents.

According to the agreed-upon schedule, the first deadline is April 22, when supporting intervenor testimony on the public interest issue is due. The first technical session is set for 9 a.m. on July 27, with the others on Nov. 21 and April 10, 2006, also at 9 a.m.

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