WATERVILLE — Despite an hour of talks with a mediator at Waterville District Court on Friday, officials with the towns of Oakland and Sidney were unable to resolve a $3,420 contract dispute.

In reaction to the failed mediation attempt, Judge Charles Dow scheduled the small-claims case brought by Oakland for a hearing on Jan. 7.

“We just can’t come to an agreement,” Oakland Town Manager Gary Bowman said after remediation talks requested by the court. “We’re going to have to have a judge make the decision. Both sides are fairly entrenched.”

The case concerns radio equipment that Sidney contracted to use a spot on a communications tower rented by Oakland to serve its fire and rescue services.

According to Sidney officials, the town relocated the repeater — a device that rebroadcasts radio transmissions — to Oakland from Benton in an effort to improve radio coverage.

The Oakland location was not adequate though, they said, leaving “a number of large dead spots” in which emergency personnel could not communicate with dispatch or each other.

“We were paying for a service that didn’t work,” said Sidney Selectman Kelly Couture, in an interview prior to the court date. “If you have a service that’s not working, you shouldn’t have to be bound to it.”

In response, Sidney spent more than $5,000 erecting a local tower for radio communications, and town officials say it has resolved the coverage gaps.

But Oakland officials maintain Sidney is in breach of contract for stopping its payments for the repeater just two years into a five-year contract.

In September, with approval from the town council, former Oakland Town Manger Peter Nielsen filed a small-claims suit against Sidney seeking $3,420.

Bowman, who has taken over the case since Nielsen retired as town manager, said the sum would satisfy the fees Oakland expected to collect over the three years remaining on the contract.

“We have to look out for the financial well being of Oakland, just like they do in Sidney,” Bowman said.

In a letter to residents, Sidney’s selectmen said they offered Oakland a $1,500 settlement to terminate the contract and were led by Oakland officials to believe that the payment would resolve the issue.

In a February meeting, however, Sidney Selectman Doug Eugley said that Oakland refused the offer.

No attorneys are involved in the court proceedings. Bowman and Fire Chief Dave Coughlin represented Oakland in court. Couture, Eugley and selectmen John Whitcomb and Laura Parker represented Sidney.

Sidney officials told Dow their emergency dispatch service would not be impacted by continuing the case until January.

Evan Belanger — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @ebelanger

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