Some Harriman leaders want another go at negotiations over Pinnacle Pointe

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By Cindy Simpson

Negotiations failed the first time around between developers and Harriman over who owes whom in a disagreement over a project involving public and private work.

Two Harriman City Council members, however, were ready last week to give it another go.

Harriman Councilman J.D. Sampson’s motion to have himself, Councilman Kenyon Mee and City Attorney Harold Balcom meet with the opposing was quickly voted down.

Sampson said he had been contacted by Steve Kirkham about reopening negotiations.

He believes reaching a conclusion on the suits sooner would help open up the possibility of development in Midtown.

Disagreements over the roadways in Pinnacle Pointe are part of the ongoing litigation and are blamed for the loss of several projects to the area.

“The only reason I think we need to (is) everybody keeps saying this could go on for years,” Mee said. “As these years go on, these legal fees are going to add up.”

Sampson hinted at the possibility of the developers paying the $234,687 a state audit said is due the city.

Councilman Lonnie Wright said the group involved with previous negotiation had made similar discussion without success.

“I was under the impression the group we had chosen before had made those sorts of offerings, and that is why we ended up with the lawsuit,” Wright said.

“Does Harold know you are going to propose this?” asked Harriman Treasurer Charles Kerley.

“Once it is in litigation, it is unusual for the parties to meet without the attorneys actually leading the discussion.”

“Mediation did not work. My position is I’m not going back and changing my mind,” Councilman Chase Tedder said.

Balcom said mediation was unsuccessful the first time, and he believes negotiations should only return if the developers are willing to pay what is due.

“Negotiation, if serious, is always an option,” Kerley said. “However, negotiations should be initiated with all council members present, with lawyers present for each side, with a specific settlement proposal coming from the Prestige side.”

The city first became aware that they were owed funds by a state audit. Developers of Prestige, including Kirkham and Jerry Duncan, alleged that the city actually owed them. The developers filed suit first, asking for millions.

The city filed a counter-complaint asking for a judgment to reimburse money spent on private property, roadways and public infrastructure or for the ownership of those improvements themselves.

Balcom said the $2.7 million that Mee mentioned during the meeting is what developers say the city spent on their share of the contract. He contends other projects, including the interchange, a key part of the development’s success, should be included in what the city spent.

Part of the countersuit is also referring to funds the city paid to Site Inc. after the land work portion of the project was completed.

Even using the $2.7 million, however, Balcom said their engineering study shows the city shouldn’t have spent not much more than around $1.2 million.

“We are confident in the engineering estimates because they were independently done and compare with estimates of the bidders who bid on the project,” Kerley said.

The counter-complaint alleges the city was charged $2.033 million “more than the actual cost of the work contracted.”

Mee referred to the figures Prestige uses that allege the city actually owes them roughly $273,966.

“The financial tabulation that Prestige audit firm provided clearly states that it is not an audit,” Kerley said. “Neither is it a financial statement.”

Balcom said it is simply a document where developers told the accounting firm where to allocate the bills.

“That doesn’t mean that is what we should have paid,” Balcom said.