published: Sunday, November 25, 2012
Council denies HUC payments
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
SEBRING -- Discussions surrounding a prospective payment from the city to Highlands Utility Corporation became a touchy subject Tuesday evening as council members waded their way through legal jargon.
The Highlands Utility Corporation requested that the city disburse an annual payment of approximately $100,000. HUC is associated with a number of easements throughout the city limits. Since November 2008, all but two of the easements have been completed. The two final easements, Jackson Plaza and Sebring Falls, are being held up by owners, whom HUC attorneys say "haven't made the property a priority".
Marty Friedman spoke to council representing HUC Tuesday evening, trying to make sense of the somewhat messy situation. The Jackson Plaza easement is nearly wrapped up according to Friedman. Attorney Bridget Grimsley stated that the Jackson Plaza easement is 90 percent done and that a line is currently being moved.
"The Sebring Falls easement is the only real issue left. I've been trying to get this squared away but I can't speak with the owner, just their attorney. It may come to litigation," said Friedman.
The Sebring Falls easement hasn't made much progress in four years, according to City staff. HUC has been working to resolve the issue since November 2008.
City council members were told that a total of $131,922 is available in the escrow account which can be used to resolve the issue, though council members are pushing HUC to reach an agreement.
City attorney Bob Swaine has been trying unsuccessfully to make headway in the matter. The Sebring Falls easement includes a lift station, which may have to be relocated if an agreement can not be made with the property owner.
HUC officials were adamant about getting this year's payment regardless of the status of the easement.
"It's unnecessary to hold that money when you already have $131,000 sitting in escrow," said Friedman. "You still have $113,000 due next month. We are requesting that you release the annual payment to the HUC."
Council members all agreed that four years was long enough to reach an agreement, though Friedman and Grimsley said that several unreturned phone calls, messages and a death in the HUC family caused several unexpected delays. The council encouraged the HUC attorneys to resolve the issues with the project.
"Money is a heck of a motivator to me," said Councilmen John Clark.
Clark also stated that potential litigation may be the only thing that will get the attention of the property owner.
"It appears to me that litigation is unavoidable here," Swaine said.
Clark made a motion to retain the current payment as well as to not disburse the payment that was to be paid on Nov. 20. The motion passed unopposed.
Council advised HUC, Friedman and Grimsley to make a greater effort to resolve the final two easements.
Small Banner Ads