Council approves appeal and negotiation in Collins lawsuit

By Martin Couch

Two weeks ago, Alderman Ed Collins won a $70,000 lawsuit against the City of Bryant for damages to his property caused by flooding.

Officially, on Thursday Dec. 9, the City Council was told of the recommendation of an appeal on the lawsuit and,[more] at the same time, advised to begin negotiations with Collins to get the suit possibly settled before the appeal can be heard. The appeal by the city could take as long as nine months before it can be heard by a judge.

"Finance and Personnel voted to appeal and, at some time, start to negotiate to see if he and the city could come to an agreement before the appeals process was finished," Mayor Larry Mitchell said.

Alderman Danny Steele made a motion to approve the appeal and negotiation, but there was still some discussion to be heard on the topic.

"We need to contact the Bakers," Alderman Steve Gladden said.

Chris and Michelle Baker of 1717 Augusta Cove, neighbors to Collins, also want their property refurbished or there would be the possibility of another lawsuit against the city.

The Bakers were victims of the 2008 flood that caused an emergency situation of flooding houses and rescues. The ditch behind their house eroded the side of the creek bed, causing a large sinkhole under their privacy fence. The fence had to be taken down for repairs and the city is negotiating to fix the problem.

"I will be happy to ask them if they are willing to do that," City attorney Nga Mahfouz said. "We need to get the real figures."

After meeting with the Bakers last Wednesday, Mitchell said that they wanted their property fixed.

"If we don't do it, they will pursue legal action," Mitchell said. "I don't think they are expecting it to be fixed this month by any means, I think we need the numbers so we can see what we are actually speeding. And tell them, yes, we have all the numbers now, and what time frame we are going in. We've got the plan and it’s been funded. ‘If we initiate this program, would you not file a lawsuit?’"

Mahfouz suggested setting up a meeting in early January to discuss the situation and invite the Bakers to attend.

The next regular City Council meeting is slated for Jan. 13, but the Council decided to set a date of Jan. 11 at 6 p.m. for a workshop to determine a way to resolve the problem.

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