ROCKINGHAM — Dari Joy of Bellows Falls is typically known for its ice cream that has been in place since 1952, but recently attention has been drawn to the owner, Richard DeMuzio who has fought to have his business' sign repaired.
Nearly 10 months later, an agreement has been met. Monday evening, the Selectboard agreed to pay Dari Joy $10,000 to cover the damages that occurred to the business' sign in February 2015.
"There were some hard feelings because town did not step up initially, but we came out with an amicable agreement that works well for Dari joy and the town," said DeMuzio's attorney, Tom Costello of Tom Costello of Costello, Valente & Gentry in Brattleboro.
On February 27, 2015 the Dari Joy sign was knocked down by a Rockingham Highway Department grader that was operated by Mike Furgot. On May 5, 2015 Selectboard members voted against funding the difference between an ensuing insurance payment and the estimated costs of replacing the sign at Dari Joy. KG Signs in North Walpole, N.H., quoted the sign replacement at $13,524.46 and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns — Rockingham's insurance provider — conducted an investigation before proposing reimbursement of $6,762.23 to Dari Joy owner, Richard DeMuzio. However, according to Costello, town zoning officials had told DeMuzio he would have to replace the sign within a year of the incident, otherwise he would have to go through an ordinance.
"He could not accept their payment, which would not give him enough money, so his only option was to bring a lawsuit," said Costello.
According to Costello, the town was found libel for the damage, based on testimony of witnesses from various employees, contractors and citizens.
On November 18, a mediation was held between mediator and former judge, Arthur O'Dea; Richard DeMuzio; Rockingham Selectboard member Joshua Hearne; Municipal Manager Willis D. "Chip" Stearns II; Tom Costello; and attorney Phil Woodward. At the mediation the town agreed to pay $10,000 and agreed that DeMuzio would have six months from receipt of the check to rebuild the sign. At the Dec. 1 board meeting, the Selectboard officially voted that this amount would be paid toward Dari Joy for the repairs.
Costello noted that the $10,000 does not meet what KG Signs had quoted DeMuzio, but that DeMuzio will have to cut back on some reconstruction costs in order to repair the sign within six months of when he receives the check.
"Thank God for the courts that can protect Richard from the tyranny of the town," said Costello.
Costello said DeMuzio has jumped through several hoops to reach an agreement to cover the costs, but he said his client is satisfied with the resolution and would like to move foraward peacefully with the town.