Laquey culvert dispute blows up into lawsuit over water damage to road
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
Posted: Thursday, July 1, 2010 11:59 pm
Water problems with this road have generated a lawsuit in Laquey.
LAQUEY, Mo. (July 1, 2010) — A year-old fight over a road culvert in Laquey could go to trial on Aug. 3 with a procedural hearing next week Wednesday before Circuit Judge Mary Sheffield on whether the people filing the lawsuit are entitled to a jury trial and reimbursement of their lawyer’s fees.
In court papers responding to a lawsuit by Neal and Helen Warren, the defendants, John and Margaret Meade, claim that the Warrens built a culvert in August 2009 “that was accompanied by a ditch on the south side of said culvert that was dug too deep to allow for proper drainage with the existing road ditch,” and rather than building the culvert in a way “that caused it to fit in with existing drainage system (the Warrens) wrongfully dug a pathway for the water causing it to flow onto (the Meade’s) land.”
The Meades have retained an engineer, William E. Anderson of Rolla, who, according to court documents, suggested that an appropriate solution would be “to relocate the cross road culvert and regrade the north and south ditches of the extension of Sarah Lane to direct the ditch flow to the west and discharge the flow onto the property of the neighbor who constructed the road,” referring to the Warrens.
In their court petition, the Meades asked that Sheffield order the Warrens to follow the engineer’s recommendation. The court petition also claims that the Warrens “trespassed and destroyed a segment of the road on (the Meades’) property at Sandalwood Drive causing (a road access) easement to be impassible” and seek reimbursement for the costs to replace the culvert and repair Sandalwood Drive.
That cost would be $1,475, according to an estimate prepared by Scott McMahon of the Richland-based McMahon Excavating company.
The Meades also claim that the Warrens “knew or should have know that their suit was without merit.”
The Meades are represented by Mark Prugh; the Warrens are represented by Kimberly Lowe. Both are local attorneys practicing in Waynesville.
The case, filed by the Warrens on Sept. 18 and originally scheduled for trial on Dec. 7 of last year, has been postponed repeatedly due to various procedural issues.
In their original legal brief, the Warrens said that Larry Southard, the developer of the property, granted them a permanent road easement in May 2009 to access their property, providing that the road is build according to Pulaski County road specifications.
Southard, also a Laquey resident, is the president of the Laquey R-V School Board and is running in the Republican Party primary against Debbie Harris of Richland and Sue Rapone of Waynesville for his party’s nomination for Pulaski County Treasurer. However, neither the Meades nor the Warrens claim any wrongdoing by Southard in court documents.
Southard’s easement to the Warrens authorizes them to dedicate the road to the public, but that’s not going to happen anytime in the near future, according to Western District Commissioner Ricky Zweerink.
“It’s unfortunate that could have been settled so easily, but it wasn’t. There are a lot of personalities involved,” Zweerink said during Thursday’s county commission meeting.
“They’re going to have to clean up all of them before I get involved again,” Zweerink said.
Zweerink didn’t specify what “clean up” would be required, but photos submitted to the court show significant road damage. In their original court filing, the Warrens claimed that the Meades “built a dam on (their own) property which blocks (the Warrens’) culvert. Said dam allows water to pool which had and will cause damage to the road.”
That dam, according to the Warrens, will cause them “irreparable injury, loss and damage” including that they “will have to continue to expend monies to repair the damage to the road caused by the standing water on the road” and “will have difficulty selling their property due to the future expenses the new owner(s) will have in order to maintain and repair the road.”
Maintaining the road will be a continuing cost to the Warrens, they said, because the county commission “will not approve and accept the road as a county road.”
The Warrens’ original petition asked the judge to issue an injunction ordering the Meades “to remove the dam and any other obstructions blocking the natural flow of the water and to refrain from blocking the natural flow of water in the future” and assess court costs against the Meades.
County commissioners have addressed the situation previously but no action is anticipated by the commissioners pending completion of litigation.
The situation has been problematic almost from the beginning due to procedural issues. In an attachment to the court papers filed by Sherri Dawn Miller, the legal assistant for the Warrens’ attorney, Kimberly Lowe, Miller wrote to circuit court officials that “I appreciate you putting up with me, especially when I throw wacky things your way.”