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Forest Park settles with AGL over land, damage

FOREST PARK — Sometimes losing a fight against City Hall can mean a good thing for taxpayers.

Council members voted Monday night to accept a settlement between the city and Atlanta Gas Light Co. The settlement means the utility company will pay to properly repair 20 driveways on Hendrix Drive and pay fair market value on property on Cash Memorial Boulevard they need to install a pressure relief valve.

Mayor David Lockhart presented the information at the meeting.

“This is a fantastic piece of news,” he said.

AGL did some work on Hendrix Drive, tearing up the street and destroying about 20 driveways, he said. The street is in Ward 1, represented by Tommy Smith.

“Their idea of repaving was pouring 6-, 8-, 10-feet of black roadway asphalt,” said Lockhart.

Although frustrated with the damage, city officials gained leverage and a bargaining chip when AGL approached them about the Cash Memorial Boulevard property. The company offered to buy the easement for $500 in May.

However, city officials argued that the valve, contained inside a metal box 12-feet square and 12-feet high, would make the property around it unusable by anyone else.

“They offered $4,000 and we did not say yes,” said Lockhart.

Instead, the city counter-offered selling the property for the fair market value of $39,000. However, AGL decided to be content with the easement, which they’d already purchased.

The fly in the ointment came when officials examined the easement agreement.

“We couldn’t find any council action at all that showed it had been discussed or voted on,” he said, which voided the agreement.

So Forest Park was back to the drawing board with AGL but with the upper hand.

“They wanted something from us at the same time,” said Lockhart. “And we really wanted Hendrix Drive fixed. The city and Tommy Smith worked on a deal with AGL attorney to pay $39,000 for the Cash Memorial property and to fix Hendrix Drive.”

Lockhart compared the situation to the biblical battle between David and Goliath.

“This is a real victory for the city,” he said. “We were fighting Goliath, as it were.”

Mayor Pro Tem Linda Lord made the motion to accept the settlement and the vote was unanimous.