Alabaster, Ala., officials have agreed to settle a 9-year-old lawsuit filed by self-storage operator Rafiki Associates LLC, which contended the city illegally installed sewer lines on land that includes Rafiki Mini-Storage at 201 9th Ave. S.E. The city council unanimously approved authorization on July 27 that allows Mayor Marty Handlon to negotiate and finalize a settlement. The city intends to settle the suit for $175,000, according to the source.
As part of the settlement, an insurance company will pay the monetary damages, while the city has agreed to pay the attorney’s fees for the parties in the case, Handlon said. “It broke my heart to spend taxpayer dollars on the settlement, but we felt like considering the lack of evidence in our favor ... that it would be best to go ahead and settle with the least amount," Handlon told the source.
Doctors Brice Brackin, Peter Jander, Dewey Jones and Kirit Patel are listed in court documents as the Rafiki Associates partners who filed the suit. They filed a suit claiming “inverse condemnation and trespass” against the city, a few months after observing heavy machinery on their property, according to the source. Rafiki claimed it had not been notified about the sewer-line installation.
The city countered in court documents that the sewer lines had been present since 1973 and manholes had been installed well before the 2006 filing. Rafiki acquired the property sometime between March 1986 and October 1992, according to the source. In 2006, the previous city administration put another sewer line next to the existing one to provide more flow, Handlon told the source.
"In trying to figure out how to defend this case, we found there were no records of written documentation that were in the city's favor,” Handlon said, adding that the previous landowner and city engineer who installed the sewer line were deceased and could not testify on the city’s behalf. “Our attorney advised us, due to the lack of documentation and evidence, that it would be best to settle."
The settlement includes documentation that will enable the city to maintain the sewer line across the property. “With that we will get the documented plat with easements and access to maintain those sewers,” Handlon said.