Burn pit results in dispute over sewer line repairs

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Leachville City Council resolved a disagreement between the city and a Cotton Pointe resident, concerning sewer pipe damage, at the regular council meeting held Monday, Sept. 12.

Mr. and Mrs. Tracey Brown, of 1900 Cotton Pointe, addressed the council concerning a letter they received from City Attorney Christopher Jester.

The letter dated July 17, listed the reason for recent repairs to sewer lines behind Brown's residence as being the result of a burn pit on Brown's property.

The letter from Jester stated, "The pit was on the city's easement and was the cause of damage to the sewer pipe. In making the necessary repairs, the City of Leachville incurred an expense of $6,659.24. If proper arrangements have not been made for payment of this bill by the end of August 1, I have been directed in filing a lawsuit against you for the payment."

Tracey Brown denied the burn pit he had dug with a shovel was deep enough to cause the damage.

"The pit I dug was about 3 or 3.5 feet deep," Brown said. "I was told that the pit was 8 feet deep, as that is how deep the sewer lines are. I couldn't have dug that deep with the shovel I used. It would have taken heavy equipment to do that, and besides it would have been dangerous for my kids to have played out in the yard with a hole like that. The walls could have caved in. My pit was not that deep."

Mayor Sheila Spurlock reported that burned wood and ash were found near the damaged sewer lines, and the city was acting on that report.

Brown cited heavy rain and a sinkhole as potential reasons that the wood and ash had washed down to 8 feet in depth.

Both Spurlock and Brown presented photos of the site to support their claims. The council reviewed all photos at length.

"What proof do we have that he (Brown) caused the damages?" Councilman David Wallace asked.

"There was a sink hole, and Tracey (Brown) told me he had dug a burn pit," Spurlock said.

"I had a burn pit, but not deep enough to do damage to that pipe," Brown said.

"These photos do not show any melted pipe," Alderman Johnny Hawkins said.

"How did we know about the damage to the pipe?" Alderman Teresa Johnson said.

"We had to dig down to repair the pipe, and it was found," Spurlock said.

"Was this during the flooding?" Wallace asked.

"Yes," Spurlock said.

"I don't think they (Brown) should pay for it," Hawkins said.

Initially, a motion was made by Alderman Bill Hetler to take the city's charges off of the statement, reducing the bill to $4,034.75. The motion failed for lack of a second.

"We don't have proof that the damage was caused by Mr. Brown," Wallace said.

Hawkins moved to waive the whole bill for damages. The motion passed 3-2. Aldermen Hawkins, Wallace and Ethel Hetler voted to waive the bill, and Bill Hetler and Teresa Johnson voted against it. Alderman Bruce Wilson was absent.

Other city business included:

*Police Chief Keith Evans gave the August Police Department report. Fine money turned in for the month included $2,807. Jail fees collected were $340. Automated Defibrillators purchased were $7,947. Thirty traffic citations were processed and five criminal citations.

*Dickie Coburn reported two streets have been paved this past month.

*Mark Johnson gave the Fire Department and First Responder report, which consisted of 16 medical calls in July and 15 in August, two fire calls in July and six in August. First Responders are in the process of being recertified, and two new members will be certified for the first time.

*Alderman David Wallace reported on feasibility of acquiring the old Post Office building for city use.

"The building is getting to be run down, and something needs to be done with it," Wallace said. "The building would be a good write-off for them and a very useful building for the city. I hope something can be worked out."

*The council passed a resolution to continue the taxable millage rate of 5 mills to be designated for Maintenance and Operation.

*In order to take care of the half price cost of dumping at the county landfill, Leachville City Wide Clean-Up Day was set for all day on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 23 and 24, and a half day Sunday, Sept. 25.

*The council voted to apply for a grant to purchase city weather sirens and consider construction of a safe house in the future.

The next regular council meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17, at city hall.

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