Northeast Woodland Chartered Public School has been renting classroom and outdoor space at the Technology Village in Conway from the Mt. Washington Valley Economic Council. Now the two are locked in a zero-sum court battle. (FILE PHOTO)

CONWAY — The Northeast Woodland Chartered Public School and the Mount Washington Valley Economic Council are in a court battle that may result in the demise of whichever side loses.

Northeast, a K-8 school with 170 students that has rented classroom space and a vacant lot at the Economic Council's Technology Village since 2020, is suing the council for $6.7 million — about the cost of building a new school.

Northeast alleges the Economic Council blocked the school from buying both the classroom space and Lot 5, which it uses for outdoor classrooms and a playground. The Technology Village is located on 80 areas about a mile north of Conway Village off Route 16.

The Economic Council says the school violated the terms of the lease for Lot 5 and had no intention of allowing the school to purchase the indoor space.

A court hearing is scheduled for Thursday but because of the litigation, representatives from both Northeast and the Economic Council declined to comment. A mediation session was set for Monday. The results of this last-ditch effort to avoid the hearing were not available at press time.

Litigated at Thursday's hearing will be a temporary ex-parte attachment of $6,650,034 granted by Carroll County Superior Court Judge Amy Ignatius on June 13. The attachment basically freezes the Economic Council from selling any assets until the lawsuit is resolved. Ex parte means the judge's decision was made based on information provided only by one party, in this case Northeast.

In an affidavit filed in court also on June 13, Economic Council Executive Director Jac Cuddy warned, "If the $6,650,034 attachment is made permanent, MWVEC is unlikely to survive as a going concern.”

The Economic Council has $3 million insurance coverage and net assets of $769,000.

Meanwhile, the school currently leases second-floor space in the Tech Village building from Granite State Colleges. The building is comprised of two condominiums, one owned by the council, the other by the college, which no longer uses the space and operates remotely. 

The leases for the classroom space and Lot 5 expire this summer, and how the school continues if it cannot renew those leases or win in court is unclear. 

Northeast also has options to purchase both the classroom space and the lot, and for different reasons, contends the Economic Council has purposely blocked it from buying both. 

On the vacant lot, the council says in court papers that the school violated the lease by not following the "rules and regulations" of the Technology Village. The council alleges a number of problems, including letting students congregate in the parking lot and blocking vehicular access to the Tech Village when parents drop off and pick up their children. 

The court papers include letters from Conway Selectman Mary Carey Seavey and local architect Mike Couture that support the Economic Council.

After the school opened, "there was absolutely no parking for the tenants of the Tech Village," Seavey wrote in 2021. "Cars were parked on the entrance road and on the grass."

A Technology Village tenant, Couture complained in a 2021 letter to Northeast that the school "makes very little effort to accommodate any of the businesses there ... and they don't care." He wrote, "I feel they are not good citizens on the campus."

Regarding the indoor classroom space, the Economic Council contends that because it has the right of first refusal, Northeast "could not have reasonably believed it had found a permanent home."

Northeast says the Economic Council not only backed out of a promise to change the bylaws of the condominium association needed to allow an elementary school but misrepresented its intent to do so. 

That misrepresentation, Northeast contends, was the entire basis for which it based its plan to move to the Tech Village, including leasing Lot 5. Without it, Northeast says, it would not have signed a lease for either the classroom space or the outdoor space.

According to court records, Northeast filed the attachment "based on the defendant's intentional misrepresentations ... during the negotiations" of the option to purchase the lot.

The agreed-upon price for the lot was $120,000 and for the classroom space, $1,072,000.

Cuddy's June 13 affidavit spells out a completely different version of the dispute. In it, Cuddy says the Economic Council’s understanding was the school leased space from Granite State on a temporary basis and that its operation would be limited to the second floor.

“In the spirit of cooperation," the Economic Council agreed to lease Lot 5 to the school, he said. He adds that the lease with Granite State expanded after the first year to include the first floor, but the Economic Council wasn’t aware of it until after it was signed. 

Cuddy’s affidavit said the Economic Council “in good faith” sought to assist the school in finding a better-suited permanent location.

His affidavit does not directly address Northeast's allegation that the Economic Council misrepresented its intent to change the condominium's bylaws. However, court papers filed by the Economic Council denies that.

The supposed misrepresentation, says Northeast, requires the school to relocate. And since it says there are no existing facilities suitable for a school, it must build one.

In response, the Economic Council said the notion a school cannot operate anywhere but the Technology Village is "wholly unsupported and preposterous."

Northeast said it got a quote to build a new school from the Bauen Corp., a construction management company in Meredith.

In a letter dated April 14, 2022, Bauen estimates it would cost $6,347,957 to build a new school, not including land. It is based on a two-story building with 14,784 square feet containing 12 classrooms plus administrative offices, a kitchen, bathrooms and mechanical and electrical space. Total cost of the project is estimated at $7,830,034, excluding the cost of land.

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