Friday, May 6, 2016

Lawsuit Claims Greeneville-Greene County Municipal Airport (KGCY) Construction Damaged Property

A property owner last week filed a lawsuit against the Greeneville-Greene County Municipal Airport Authority, Greene County and the town of Greeneville alleging that work at the airport resulted in property damage and loss of rental income.

In her complaint, filed April 26 in Greene County Circuit Court, Norma Osborne is seeking a judgment in the amount of $500,000 from the co-defendants, the owners and operators of the Greeneville-Greene County Municipal Airport.

The complaint, filed by Osborne's attorney Frank Santore, states that Osborne is the owner of Pebble Hill Park, a mobile home park located adjacent to the airport. Osborne herself resides in a home located next to the mobile home park, according to the complaint.

The complaint says an agent for VCE Inc., a contractor involved with the construction at the airport, was sent to Osborne's home to request permission to check the structural soundness of the 14 units in her mobile home park along with her residence.

"When plaintiff queried VCE's agent as to why he wished to enter upon her property, he stated that he was there to conduct a seismological survey, and to look for defects in plaintiff's various housing units, because VCE had been retained by all of the defendants, jointly and severally, in order to conduct preliminary testing prior to blasting and other construction activities to be undertaken on improvement to the Greeneville Airport," the complaint states.

The complaint further states VCE's agent said seismographs and other gauges would be installed so that blasting and other construction activity could be monitored on Osborne's property in order to prevent her property from being damaged, but installation never occurred.

It was shortly after this that the county, city and Airport Authority directed several contractors and subcontractors to begin a construction project at the airport, according to the complaint. The complaint also states Osborne marketed her mobile home property as a "clean, quiet park."

"Unfortunately, what has occurred since construction has begun has turned plaintiff's property into a dump," the complaint states.

Osborne alleges that the construction resulted in the emanation of constant noise, smoke, fumes and dust. She also alleges in her complaint that her tenants' access to the Pebble Hill Park has been "needlessly interrupted," and the roadbed from Airport Road has been reduced to a "wagon rut" as a result of the construction.

It is further alleged that the construction damaged the water line to Pebble Hill Park, which interrupted water service to Osborne's tenants and resulted in her having to spend $25,000 for the installation of new water lines throughout the park.

Osborne's complaint states the construction also resulted in her losing some of her $6,000 monthly rental income due to tenants leaving the park.

"In addition, as plaintiff has tried to re-let her premises, prospective renters have declined to rent, because they witness the constant construction activity of the defendants, their contractors, subcontractors, agents, servants and employees," the complaint states.

Osborne further alleges that her own home was damaged as a result of the ongoing construction.

Along with loss of property value, loss of present and future rental income, Osborne alleges that the topography of her land was damaged and environmental damage was caused to the property due to the ongoing construction.

The complaint states that the actions of the defendants have effectively taken Osborne's property "without just compensation," entitling her to damages under state constitutional and statutory provisions regarding eminent domain.

A separate complaint, also filed on April 26 in Circuit Court, names Summers-Taylor Inc., VCE Inc., Greeneville Aviation Services Inc. and East Coast Drilling & Blasting Inc. as defendants. The complaint states these are the contractors and subcontractors on the construction project.

Osborne is also seeking a $500,000 judgment from these defendants for alleged property damage and loss of rental revenue.

"The two complaints speak for themselves," Santore said Thursday afternoon.

Santore said he intends to file a motion in Circuit Court to unify the two complaints into a single complaint. He also said the defendants were approached previously.

"Overtures were made at the beginning of the year to all the parties affected," he said. "None of them had the decency to respond to us except for the one not named in this lawsuit, which is (Scott Niswonger)."

Santore also said he is "very closely" watching any conveyance of the airport, since his client stands as a potential creditor, particularly if the conveyance is made for less than full consideration of the airport's value.

Responses to the complaints have not yet been filed in Greene County Circuit Court and no court dates have been scheduled.

Janet Malone, chair of the Greeneville-Greene County Airport Authority, said Thursday that any damage caused by blasting is covered under the blasting company's contract and property insurance and that an inspector was sent in the event someone had a complaint about drilling. She said other nearby rental property owners, who were notified of the construction in advance, have not had issues keeping their rental properties full.

Malone also said Osborne previously approached airport officials about selling her property, stating that she wished to retire from the rental business. 

However, Malone said the state did not deem Osborne's property necessary for the construction project. Because of this, Osborne's property was not purchased.

"I don't know if this is a result of that or not," Malone said.

Malone added she feels those involved with the airport, including Greeneville Aviation Services, have no fault in the matter.

"It's just unfortunate that this has happened, but we'll just have to deal with it through the courts," she said.

The construction project, which has been ongoing for about a year, is slated for completion by this fall, Malone said.

Attorney Ron Woods, who represents both the town of Greeneville and the Airport Authority, could not be reached Thursday for comment. County Attorney Roger Woolsey also could not be reached for comment.

This is the second lawsuit recently filed against the Airport Authority. Baker's Construction Services Inc. previously filed a lawsuit alleging breach of contract on the part of the Airport Authority related to ongoing projects at the airport.

In December, Chancellor Douglas T. Jenkins ruled that garnishments against the airport's monthly rental revenue would continue to a pay a nearly $800,000 judgment, plus interest, awarded to Baker's.

This ruling prompted Greeneville Mayor W.T. Daniels in February to send a letter to Greene County Mayor David Crum saying that the airport has insufficient funds to cover the legal judgment. He presented the county with the options of either partnering with the city to cover the judgment or allowing the town of Greeneville to pay the entire judgment and transferring all ownership of the airport to the city.

The Greene County Commission is set to vote on the county's continued involvement with the airport at its May 16 meeting.

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