CONWAY (KATV) -
An eminent domain battle in Faulkner County has Conway Corporation digging in its heels... and possibly costing the company big bucks in the process.
A new water line leading to a new airport has led to a bitter court battle.
Conway Corporation has the power of eminent domain, and an Arkansas Supreme Court ruling suggests things may be getting a little heavy-handed.
And also expensive.
Karen Cooper walks on property at 1206 Lollie Road just outside of Conway that has been in her family for three generations.
It's about 13 acres with a home, barn and cattle. But it is a narrow strip along the road that is the subject of a court battle.
Last year Conway Corporation dug it up and put in a new water line. Now the use of the land is severely limited.
Prior to the project Cooper had the half-acre in question appraised for $10,000.
Conway Corporation offered $881.00.
"They're not willing...they're not willing to negotiate," says Cooper. "It's more like bullies."
Cooper asked for $17,500.00. There was no counter-offer, so she sued.
At this point, legal expenses for Conway Corporation are approaching $60,000.00...or more than three times what Cooper wanted.
The dispute went all the way to the Arkansas Supreme Court when Conway Corporation attorney Gary Jiles and District H.G. Foster tried to make Cooper pay over $20,000.00 to keep her case going.
(NOTE: The broadcast version of this story reported that District Judge Mike Maggio signed off on the effort to require the payment by Cooper. While the request was originally submitted to Judge Maggio, he never acted on it and was months later replaced on the bench by Judge Foster. It was Foster who then signed the order that was appealed and found problematic by the Arkansas Supreme Court, although the decision did not specify a judge by name).
The Supreme Court ruled that "...the Circuit Court...committed a plain, manifest, clear and gross abuse of discretion."
"Where is your liberty and justice for all?," wonders Cooper. "Where is your Bill of Rights and your Constitution? You know they're sure not upholding it when you're having to pay to even be heard."
Richie Arnold with Conway Corporation has issued a statement on this dispute that reads in part "Ms. Cooper...wants an amount that we cannot justify under any circumstances. This was the only property on which we had to use eminent domain. We look forward to the trial which will establish the valuation of the easement and conclude this matter."
Air date: October 17th, 2013
(NOTE: The broadcast version of this report mistakenly names Greg Giles as the attorney for Conway Corporation. Conway attorney Gary Jiles represents Conway Corp. Greg Giles is an attorney in Texarkana who has nothing to do with this dispute).
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