City seizes property via eminent domain

Benton City Council approved an ordinance Monday night that will allow the city to use eminent domain to acquire necessary property for the Alcoa Road improvement project.

The ordinance was read on its third and final reading and was approved unanimously. Absent from the meeting were Aldermen Kerry Murphy and Brad Moore.

Nine properties will be acquired with the passage of the ordinance and its emergency clause.

The properties are: 6513 Alcoa Road, owned by Joe E. and Pat M. Ioup; 6817 Alcoa Road, owned by Carl Eckhardt and Meleah Carter, trustees, and Debra and James R. Ramsey; 4523 Sleepy Village Road, owned by Eustorgio and Obdulla Couto; 5925 Alcoa Road, owned by Larry Teeter; the northeast corner of Alcoa Road and Sleepy Village Road, owned by Larry and Donna Teeter; 5150 Alcoa Road; 6712 Alcoa Road, owned by Larry Reynolds; 6802 and 6900 Alcoa Road, owned by Dalton Beaty, trustee; and 2303 Lee Circle, owned by Stinson and Doris Bailey.

Additionally, City Attorney Brent Houston learned on June 19 that eminent domain will be required to obtain six additional properties because Briggs Field Services was unable to negotiate a price agreeable to the homeowners.

Ordinance 35, which was approved on all its three required readings, acquires these sites through this process.

Mayor David Mattingly said, "We are simply out of time."

During the agenda meeting prior to the council session, Alderman Charles Cunningham said, "Because of the time frame, I hope we can pass Ordinance 35 on all three readings."

The additional sites are: Alcoa Road Storage Inc. tract 39, Benton Housing Association tract 38, Bunten Trust tract 37, J&J Finance tract 54, HENSU, LLC tract 52, Bryant School District tract 36 and Bank of the Ozarks tracts 70 and 70E.

Passage of the eminent domain ordinances was deemed necessary at the meeting because of the June 30 deadline set by Metroplan. If the properties were not acquired prior to the deadline, federal funding allocated for the project could have been lost.

Federal funding is expected to pay for 80 percent of the project.

Various residents addressed the council prior to passage of the ordinance.

Larry Teeter, one of the homeowners affected, said, "The real truth in this matter is that there is no negotiation ... phone calls haven't been returned and answers haven't been forthcoming ... I have serious doubts about future negotiations."

Another property owner, Stinson Bailey, praised Houston, saying, "I want to congratulate you (the council) on Brent. He is a very knowledgeable, likable person."

Bailey contends that negotiations hadn't been fair with Briggs Field Services, saying, "I don't want to stand in the way of growth, prosperity to our community, jobs, but at the same time I want to be treated fairly."
The mayor will pay into the registry of the Saline County Circuit Court the appraised value of the lands and other sums as may be determined by the Circuit Court to be just compensation to the owners. Owners have the opportunity to either take the settlement or continue the negotiations process.