April 21, 2009
STARKVILLE -- The effort to pave a short stretch of gravel road just south of Starkville has left one property owner angry at the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors over what he calls a campaign of "deception" and "half truths."
James Williams owns two pieces of property along Longview Road between Highway 25 and Old Highway 25.
More than a year ago the county approached Williams and his fellow property owners along Longview Road and asked them to donate roadside portions of their land for the new, wider right-of-way required for the paving project.
Williams says he didn''t want to donate the land, which totals about one-half acre between the two parcels, but he went ahead and deeded it to the county for free after discussing the issue with board President John Young. Williams and Young grew up together and have been friends for years.
Now, Williams is upset because he believes he was deceived into donating his land when he could have been compensated through eminent domain. Another set of property owners on Longview Road was compensated $4,200 for their portion of the right-of-way after an eminent domain hearing with the county earlier this year, Williams said.
Williams says Young "threatened" him by saying if he didn''t donate his lands, he would end up in court against the county. Williams also says he didn''t know the county would have to compensate him for his land in the event of an eminent domain hearing, if one would have taken place.
"(Young) didn''t explain that after eminent domain I would be compensated," Williams said. "He didn''t explain the whole process."
Young admits he didn''t explain the entire eminent domain process to Williams, but says he never threatened the man or tried to mislead him.
"I had no intent to try to mislead him in any way, even though he perceives it that way," Young said. "We had conversations about the situation. He agreed to sign the thing because, before our conversation ended, he asked ''What would happen if I don''t sign?'' and I said ''We''ll go to court.''"
"If I had known he was holding out for money, I would have left it alone," Young continued. "When I said we would go to court, I did not go into detail about the eminent domain proceedings. That ended the conversation. He''s my friend. I''m sorry it ended up this way. I was just trying to do what I thought was in the best interest of the county."
The county needed to obtain the right-of-ways from all property owners along Longview Road to receive $1.6 million in federal stimulus funds for the project. The funds will pay for paving along Poorhouse and Longview roads.
"We had to move forward because we were standing to lose $1.6 million of our stimulus money," Young said.
Williams went before the board Monday and asked supervisors to compensate him for his land, even though he already donated it to the county.
District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer made a motion to compensate Williams in the amount of $4,200 for his land, but the motion died due to a lack of a second.
Williams also said he would be willing to take $5,000 for his land, but the board didn''t act on his request.
District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard warned fellow board members that, if the county paid Williams, even after he donated the land, other property owners who donated rights-of-way could come forward and ask for compensation.
"If we voted to compensate you after you signed your easement, every other property owner who signed their easement is going to come back and say, ''I want to get paid,''" Howard told Williams. "We''d have a line out the door."
Williams was unsure Monday afternoon what he will do next. He already has been in touch with an attorney to see if anything can be done to receive compensation for his land.
Williams has been out of work since he was laid off in December by Omnova Solutions in Columbus.
"That $4,200 would be a big help," Williams said.
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