LAKE GEORGE — Warren County’s insurance carrier has notified county officials it won’t cover the $150,000 payment the county is making to an amusement park owner who sued over property issues.
The county Board of Supervisors officially approved a settlement with Jack Gillette, owner of Magic Forest Amusement Park, last month, ending years of litigation over Gillette’s claims that county employees wrongly trespassed on his land and took it for use in creating the Warren County Bikeway.
The Board of Supervisors on Friday passed a resolution designating that $100,000 of the settlement come from the county’s general fund balance, which resulted in questions about why insurance wasn’t covering the payout.
County Attorney Mary Kissane told county supervisors the insurance company, New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal, concluded there was no single negligent act on a specific date, so the settlement would not be covered by insurance.
“They said they needed an occurrence and there was no single occurrence,” she said.
The identification of an “occurrence” is needed to look into whether the county officials’ actions at issue were deliberate or accidental, Kissane explained.
Typically, the county’s insurance carrier will cover costs of litigation and settlement that ensue from an occurrence, minus a $10,000 deductible. That was the case in a settlement in a fatal car crash case earlier this year.
A series of events that came after Gillette raised questions about his property line led to the lawsuit. Those events included the removal of boulders around Magic Forest’s parking area, that the county Department of Public Works claimed were on the county’s right of way, along Bloody Pond Road.
Gillette had also questioned the legality of allowing snowmobiles on the county bikeway in front of his park, pointing to a resolution when the bikeway was created that specified no motor vehicles would be allowed.
The discussion prompted some harsh words from Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson, who has long criticized the county’s actions in regard to Gillette. He pointed out that county leaders involved in the situation are no longer with the county, but said he hoped supervisors and other county employees learned from the case.
He said he tried to stop the county DPW from removing the boulders from Gillette’s property, and said, “I would have ended up in jail,” if the county had taken similar actions on his property.
“I think we did a disservice to Mr. Gillette,” Dickinson said. “I hope we never do something this stupid again.”
The boulders that were removed from Gillette’s property are scheduled to be replaced this spring. Snowmobiling will be allowed on the section of the bikeway that helps connect Warren County’s trail system with Washington County’s.