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Town suing company for the cost of waste water equipment

March 19, 2002|BY KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

After spending more than $100,000 on solar-powered waste water equipment, the Town of Boonsboro is suing the North Dakota company that sold it the equipment, saying it didn't work and cost the municipality money in fines.

A suit filed at the Washington County Courthouse in February by the town's attorney, William C. Wantz, said Town Council agreed on June 7, 2000, to purchase the Pond Doctor waste water treatment system for $104,180.

The sales agreement included a one-year limited warranty under which the town would be reimbursed for the purchase price if the equipment failed to satisfy town officials within one year, the suit states.

The solar-powered pond mixers didn't function properly and the town had high algae levels and other biological problems at the lagoon, the suit alleges.

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The town is suing the company for breach of warranty and asking that the purchase price be returned. The warranty agreement prevents the town from asking for additional money such as that paid out in fines, Wantz said.

In two letters to the town included in the suit, Pond Doctor President Wayne Ruzicka acknowledged that the equipment didn't work properly in Boonsboro and that the town was due the purchase price but said financial problems would delay reimbursement.

Ruzicka said in a letter to the town written on Jan. 21, 2001, that it "was a difficult year for Ponds Rx Us Inc. as sales of Pond Doctor units were 65 percent of projections. The problem is further compounded by returns of Pond Doctor units which did not perform as expected.

"To date 231 units have been sold and 37 have requested refunds," the letter said. "Twenty-five units in seven communities have received full refunds ... which means only 12 remain and unfortunately your community is one of them...."

"Lower than anticipated sales and the refunds affect our cash flow, which is the only reason your community has not been refunded to date," Ruzicka said in the letter.

The company took the Pond Doctor name on Jan. 1. Before that, it was known as Ponds Rx Us Inc.

A secretary at Pond Doctor said Ruzicka was out of the office until April 1 and couldn't be reached for comment.

"The concept has great appeal to the town and the public. We're disappointed the technology didn't work here," said Wantz in a phone interview Monday.

Wantz said the town's present system "is like a giant mixmaster in our lagoon, running 24 hours a day," and costing Boonsboro thousands of dollars for electricity.

Because the solar-powered system didn't work, the town's waste water didn't meet state standards and Boonsboro was ordered to pay fines of $3,500 in 2000 and $3,000 in 2001, Mayor Charles "Skip" Kauffman said.

The town contested the $3,500 fine unsuccessfully and will protest the $3,000 fine, he said.

The solar-powered technology has been used successfully elsewhere but wasn't appropriate for Boonsboro, town Superintendent Robert Mose said.

After it was clear the new equipment wasn't going to work, the town went back to its original electric-powered equipment, Mose said.

The town discharges about 280,000 gallons of waste water produced by its 3,500 residents daily, he said.

"It would have been a dream come true if it worked," said Mose.

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