PHOTO: Rainsville Mayor Rodger Lingerfelt weighs-in on the situation regarding the condemnation of a right-of-way to replace Chavies Bridge. (File Photo)
By Marla Jones, Reporter
RAINSVILLE, Ala. — Mayor Rodger Lingerfelt and Council Member Derek Rosson requested a meeting to respond to a previous Southern Torch story concerning the city’s condemnation action against some of the property owners adjoining the Chavis Bridge.
Nikki Scott, Rainsville City attorney and Mayor Lingerfelt explained the overall process for the Chavis Bridge project:
“The Chavies Bridge has been deteriorating for a number of years and is unable to accommodate several types of vehicles such as fire trucks and sanitation vehicles,” stated Scott.
Questions had arose concerning what the city had offered the property owners and when those offers had been made. Southern Torch was provided with written offers made by the City to Roger and Teresa Berry and to Billy and Talese Berry for a cumulative amount of $1,600. Lingerfelt confirmed in our sit down meeting that the appraiser had appraised the two tracts of land for $1,600 and that the City had offered the appraised value. Earlier, Billy Berry contended that the City offered more money but only when he obtained legal counsel.
Both parties agree that a sit down meeting between the City and the Berry’s concerning the City’s acquisition of their property never occurred. Berry had previously complained that City officials chose not to come negotiate with them, but instead sent other citizens such as longtime Rainsville resident Dr. Marvin Barron. Lingerfelt stated in our sit down interview that he could not negotiate on the City’s behalf because it was funded by state tax dollars and that is why he left the negotiating to the appraiser and the lawyers.
Lingerfelt also provided a portion of the email exchanges between city attorney Nikki Scott and the Berry’s attorney, Jeff Utsey. The emails show that the City offered $10,000 for the two tracts once the Berry’s hired Utsey and Scott stated that the $10,000 offer was a final offer. She suggested that condemnation of the property would be the next step if the offer was turned down. Utsey responded in the email chain that after further review, $10,000 for both tracts would be insufficient because the new bridge construction would adversely affect the Berry’s hay and horse shoeing business.
“Funding for the Chavies Bridge project is being provided by the State of Alabama paying for 80% of the (construction) costs, and by the City paying for 20% of the costs in addition to the engineering and construction inspection costs, which at this point amounts to about $145,000,” stated Scott.
Scott added, “A portion of the Berry family’s land must be acquired for the bridge expansion. Part of that process is for the City to attempt to come to an agreement with the affected landowners. The City and the Berry family have not been able to agree upon that amount to date. If the parties cannot agree on what amount is just compensation, then the City must file a legal action for the Court to decide the amount to be paid to the landowner. The City plans to proceed with that legal action in accordance with law to keep moving the project forward.”