Monticello Won't Exercise Eminent Domain: The (Pine Bluff AR) Commercial, 2/17/06

By Patty Wooten

The Monticello City Council on Thursday night declined to exercise its power of eminent domain to acquire an easement needed to provide city services to a developer interested in building apartments near the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

Tony Rodgers, who owns property at the corner of Bowser Road and U.S. 425 South, asked the city council in December to extend a sewer line to the south side of Bowser Road, across the street from Johnny Donaldson’s Weevil Run apartments, where a sewer pump is located.

Donaldson agreed to provide Rodgers the easement for $20,000, but Rodgers believed the cost was too high and obtained an appraisal indicating the easement is valued at $1,380.

Though the city paid $32,000 toward the cost of extending city water and sewer lines to Donaldson’s property, Donaldson said he paid about $94,000 of the cost, including 11,000 feet of pipe, and obtained the necessary easements himself.

Rodgers said he doesn’t want to tie onto the pipe, he wants to tie onto the pump, which he contends the city paid for.

“You spent $32,000 of taxpayer money and other taxpayers should be able to benefit from it,” Rodgers told the council.

Alderwoman Claudia Hartness told Donaldson she believed it is only right that he grant an easement “at a very low cost,” considering the $32,000 the city spent on his utility extension.

Donaldson said he would accept Rodgers’ offer of $1,380 for the easement “but the hook-on fee” would be $20,000.

“If he’ll sign my easement, I’ll give him $1,380,” Rodgers said.

“If he’ll pay me the hook-on fee, I’ll sign it,” Donaldson said.

Rodgers declined Donaldson’s offer and Alderman Clifton Bond made a motion that if Rodgers obtained his own easement the city would “work with” him.

“‘We’ll work with him’ is very vague,” said Hartness. “Does that mean we’ll give Tony $32,000?”

“We’re not giving anybody $32,000 ever again!” Alderman Tim Chase said.

Bond’s motion passed 6-2, with Alderwoman Carolyn Brown and Hartness casting the dissenting votes.

Mayor David Anderson then presented a proposed resolution defining the term “cost” in a May 2001 resolution. The resolution would effectively require the developer or property owner to pay the cost to extend sewer lines to projects that are not “city sponsored.” Those costs would include all expenses incurred for obtaining easements, all legal fees, engineering costs, materials, labor, inspections and any fees required by regulatory agencies.

“Who asked you to do this resolution?” Hartness asked City Attorney David Hoffman.

Anderson told Hartness that he did.

Hartness said it seemed to be a conflict of interest for Hoffman to prepare the resolution. She was referring to Hoffman’s disclosure in December that he had a potential conflict with the Donaldson and Rodgers issue because he represents Donaldson on private matters.

The proposed resolution failed.

Pine Bluff Commercial: www.pbcommercial.com