February 05. 2013 10:24PM

Joppa Hill farm, town seek chance at accord

Union Leader Correspondent

BEDFORD - The town is moving forward with plans to terminate its lease with the Educational Farm at Joppa Hill, but is offering one final chance for the two parties to reach an agreement.

The lease ends March 8, but the farm's board has been invited to participate in a third-party mediation in hopes that the two sides can resolve their issues, said Town Manager Jessie Levine.

Levine sent the EFJH board and its president, Michael Scanlon, a notice of default of the lease and agreement between the two parties on Tuesday.

According to the notice provided to the EFJH board, the town's position is that EFJH has violated its lease in four areas: the barn has not been maintained by the farm in accordance with the lease; the board has not pursued its repair "expeditiously and with diligence;" the barn poses safety risks that could impact the town's insurance rates; and the farm entered into a sublease agreements with individuals or organizations.

In letter accompanying the notice, Levine said that after two years of discussions and negotiations, EFJH has made no commitment to address safety concerns about its barn, and there was no choice but to terminate the lease.

"The barn poses a significant health and safety hazard to the public as well as to the employees, volunteers, and animals that have access to it, and the Town cannot allow this safety hazard to continue," the letter read.

Several attempts to resolve the issue have failed.

At a meeting on Jan. 14, Levine and three members of the town council were under the impression that the two parties had a verbal agreement, but the board unanimously refused to sign the documents brought forth from that meeting.

Levine said the use of a mediator may forge an agreement between the town and the farm.

"We're not going to do it as a re-run of the last two years," Levine said. "You go into mediation with an attitude that assumes there is some binding result in the end."

At the same time, Levine said even mediation won't stop the clock from ticking.

Scanlon could not be reached for comment.