PHOTO: The City of Rainsville has been seeking to replace the aging bridge on Chavies Road. Now the council is pursuing condemnation on a piece of property needed for the right-of-way for the project. We talked to the property owner today regarding the legal action. (Tyler Pruett | Southern Torch)
By Marla Jones, Reporter
RAINSVILLE, Ala. — In an exclusive interview with Southern Torch, Rainsville citizen, Billy Berry spoke to us regarding his family’s dispute with the City of Rainsville over right-of-way acquisitions for the Chavies Bridge Project. The Berry family owns the disputed land (Tract 3 and Tract 4) that the City of Rainsville seeks to obtain through a condemnation lawsuit for the new proposed Chavies Bridge.
There has been some dispute as to what the actual offer or offers were. Southern Torch has previously reported that Rainsville Mayor Rodger Lingerfelt and city attorney Nikki Scott had informed the City Council that the City had offered the Berry’s $10,000 for their property but were turned down. Since the special meeting to approve the lawsuit against the Berry’s, Lingerfelt has declined to offer more details concerning any offers.
Councilmember Marshall Stiefel confirmed to Southern Torch that Lingerfelt had privately informed the council that the Berry’s turned down a $10,000 offer from the City. According to Berry, Stiefel contacted him after the City decided to move forward with the lawsuit to ask him why the family would turn down $10,000. Berry stated that if they had been offered $10,000 initially, “he would have jerked their arm off.”
In the sit down interview with Southern Torch, Berry produced a letter addressed to him from Mayor Lingerfelt offering to pay him $500 for his land. Additionally, he provided a similar letter addressed to his father, Roger Berry, from Lingerfelt offering $1,100 for the other track. Berry said they felt their land, the inconvenience of the project, and the alteration of the driveway to their houses was worth more than a collective $1,600. The Berry’s were not offered $10,000 until they sought legal counsel.
According to Berry, several people have contacted them urging the family to accept the City’s initial offer. The list of visitors includes longtime Rainsville resident and dentist, Dr. Marvin Barron, however, Berry said that he the only correspondence from the City has been the letter from Lingerfelt. He mentioned that Stiefel was the only council member who had reached out to him personally.
Berry added that he was not trying to hinder progress, but that he wanted what was due to him and his family. He said he feels that the mayor and the council should have had a meeting for all property owners or talked with them personally about acquiring their property for the bridge project.
Follow Southern Torch for further updates as this story develops and proceeds to court for a final verdict.