2011-04-21 / Front Page

Settlement reached in lawsuit against two bonding companies

A lawsuit against two bonding companies involved in the Stillwater Coves project has been settled, according to Barry Fleming, attorney for Lincoln County.

The announcement was made during the regular meeting of the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners held Thursday, April 14.

In 2009, the Stillwater Coves Property Owners Association, backed by the county, sued two of the three bonding companies involved in the project: Lexon Insurance (a bond of $600,000 to cover electrical work and street lights) and Bond Safeguard (a $3.5-million bond for a wastewater treatment plant).

The third company, AMS Surety Holding, is no longer viable. This group put up a $1.3-million bond for water lines, street lights, and electricity.

According to Fleming, “The county required the developers of Stillwater Coves to take out bonds to ensure that the infrastructure for the subdivision was completed. After the developers went bankrupt, the property owners and the county turned to the bonding companies. When the companies did not provide money to complete the infrastructure in a timely fashion, the land owners and the county filed a lawsuit.”

Presently, the roads are in but only a portion of the water system, the waste water treatment plant, and the electrical system have been installed.

“The bonding companies agreed to settle for $1,150,000 – which represents over 95 percent of the money needed to finish the work for which the bonds were obligated,” said Fleming. “But we can’t do everything because AMS went out of business.”

The attorney added that Norwest Cascade of Washington State has already completed a portion of the work on the wastewater treatment plant, and the company is now looking at financing part of the cost of the plant for the property owners association.

“This will free up some of the settlement money for the water system,” stated Fleming.

“There was no legal obligation on the part of the county to help the property owners, but there was a moral and practical one,” he continued. “The county was trying to do the right thing and give the property owners some assistance.”

At the conclusion of the discussion, the county voted to accept the $1,150,000 settlement.

The subdivision is located off of Hester’s Ferry Road.

In other business, the commission heard the first reading of an ordinance designed “to regulate and restrict the parking, through travel, and overnight storage of trucks on the public road system.”

Prior to the second reading of the ordinance, the county attorney and Public Works Director Roby Seymour will set weight limits for the roads listed in the ordinance. The list includes New Petersburg Road, Melvin Harris Drive, Curry Circle, the Thomas Lane Post Road, Bethany Church Road, Elam Drive, Turner Drive, Beck Drive, and Lincoln Street. It was also decided that no roads will be grandfathered in.

Moreover, the ordinance will give law enforcement officers the authority to cite violators.

“We just don’t have the money to continue paving roads,” said Commission Chairman Wade Johnson. “We topped New Petersburg Road for approximately $60,000, and trucks have torn it up.”

The commissioners are expected to approve the ordinance at their regular May meeting.

In further business, the commission:

Heard the Office of Emergency Services (OES) Report given by Director Casey Broom, who said ambulance personnel responded to 90 calls for service during the month of March. The average response time was seven minutes.

As for fire and rescue activity, the director stated that the squad responded to six fire calls last month.

Concerning revenues, Broom said, “We collected over $35,000 in revenues last month. Wanda (Wanda Duncan, EOS executive assistant) has done a good job. She has been diligent, and I’m proud of her.”

Voted to give Chairman Johnson the authority to sign a memorandum of understanding with the East Central Health District that would allow the district to use the Walker T. Norman Gymnasium and/or The Lin- coln Center as distribution sites for medicine in the event of an emergency. The vote was taken, stipulating a review of the document by the county attorney.

Voted to give the chairman the authority to sign a memorandum of understanding to allow the county to dispose of surplus property through GovDeals, an online auction company.

Voted to designate the following items as surplus property: a 1999 Ford ambulance, a 2000 Ford ambulance, a 2002 Yamaha boat motor, six survive air SCBA with masks and integrated pass devices, a Honda 5-hp portable water pump, two ambulance cots, and a 1998 Smokercraft 24-foot deck boat with an Evinrude 200-hp outboard motor.

Heard the Recreation Department Report given by Director Kathy Davis, who indicated that the adult basketball program is scheduled to end Tuesday, April 18.

She further noted that the program is running smoother and there is less loitering with a law enforcement officer on the premises. The officer is paid with gate receipts.

In other items of information, Director Davis said the Little League baseball program is underway and will end the week of May 23, and Eddie Fletcher Park is currently open from 8 a.m. until dark.

Heard the Finance Department Report given by Director Traci Bussey.

Heard the Public Works Department Report given by Director Seymour, who stated that his office billed 1,384 water customers and 637 availability customers for a total of $49,308.73 for the month of March.

Regarding the road department, the director said his staff has been busy scraping roads; working on signs; hauling crush-and-run, asphalt, sand, and red clay sand; cutting trees off of rights-of-way; bush-hogging; working on various projects at the Curry Colvin Recreation Complex; patching potholes; and working on drainage pipes.

Also, Gaskins Paving worked on New Petersburg Road and Mercier Road.

Heard the Planning and Zoning Department Report given by Director Seymour, who stated his office issued eight business licenses last month for a total of $400.

Concerning code enforcement activities, 47 building permits were issued during the month of March for a total of $4,264.25, and 99 building inspections were conducted.

“Building inspections are steadily increasing,” said Director Seymour. “Things are definitely picking up.”

Voted to send a rezoning request made by Johnny Freeland and George and Doris Smith back to the Planning Commission.

Voted to approve a text amendment to the Lincoln County Land Development Code, which would allow an applicant to seek approval from the Planning and Zoning director “for temporary use of a travel trailer or recreational vehicle for the purpose of temporary housing, while the occupants will be employed during a non-residential construction project.”

As one of the conditions for approval, the applicant must put up a “Guarantee of Condition” bond. The money will be refunded in full following an inspection of the site.

The permit will not exceed 12 months, but the applicant is allowed to seek an extension.

“This amendment stems from the construction of the new bridge,” explained Director Seymour. “We are losing revenue by not letting bridge employees stay in the county.”

Voted add a sentence to the employee handbook stating that holiday pay can be eliminated by the board of commissioners if budgetary concerns so require, with the exception of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The addition to the handbook excludes emergency personnel.

“I don’t want this to become the fix whenever we have a problem,” stated Chairman Johnson. “It just gives us another option to help meet our budget and would only be used as a last resort.

“Our responsibility is to run the government with the money we have, not the money we may get.”

Was informed by Chairman Johnson of the establishment of a Policy Committee to set a policy governing the handling of money. In addition to Johnson, the committee is comprised of Traci Bussey, Commissioner Billy Joe Goldman, Casey Broom, Denise Cunningham, and Roxanne Ashmore.

Was informed by the chairman of the establishment of a Safety Committee for Workmen’s Compensation purposes. The group is made up of Johnson, Casey Broom, Commissioner Rob Robinson, Roby Seymour, Kenny Adair, and in the absence of Adair, Floydean Goldman.

The next regular meeting of the commissioners will be held Thursday, May 12, at 6 p.m. in the courtroom on the second floor of the courthouse.

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