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Another Caledonia Resident Claims Water Department Worked on his Property Without an Easement

During a June 21 special meeting, the Caledonia Board of Aldermen heard a complaint from another citizen who claims the Water Department worked on his land illegally as well as discussing a grievance against Water Superintendent Benny Coleman filed by an employee.

Another citizen of Caledonia came forward to claim that the Water Department worked on his land without an easement.
Earlier this year the Robertson family alleged that Coleman had worked on their land without first getting an easement, sparking months of back-and-forth with the board. [At this meeting, Alderman Steve Honnoll asked that the matter be turned over to Town Attorney Jeff Smith. – Brian Jones] Thursday evening Doug McConaha came forward and made similar charges.

McConaha had been put on the agenda at the board’s regular meeting on June 5, but the matter was removed at the request of Alderwoman Brenda Willis. Thursday night McConaha charged that the Water Department damaged his property and that no easement was given.

“The Water Department crossed my land without an easement,” McConaha said. “They crossed three driveways, two yards and in front of my shop. Nothing has been done in the last couple of months to fix what they’ve done. I was out of town and somebody told me they were digging over by my house and that they had cut across my driveway. The bottom line is that if I went to the Water Department and vandalized the property or the equipment I’d pay restitution or be prosecuted, one of the two. I’m asking the same of you. I’ve submitted a bill, and I’m asking it be paid. We can’t set a standard of going on people’s property.”

“When did you know that they had crossed your property?” asked Mayor George Gerhart.

“It’s hard to say,” McConaha said. “I’m gone for two or three months at a time and then I’m home for a few days. Sometime last summer or late last fall, I guess, but it never dawned on me…I just assumed it would be fixed. It wasn’t, and then I realized there were no easements. It was a little before one of the big meetings up here, I guess it was two or three months ago, when they came out to my property and were working on a fence.”

“Did you contact [Coleman] about this?” Gerhart asked.

“No,” McConaha said. “I heard through all the word of mouth about what was going on.”

“Was anything mentioned about an easement when you talked to somebody?” Gerhart said.

“Nobody said anything about an easement before, and nobody’s asked since for an easement,” McConaha said.

“You want to say anything, Benny?” Gerhart asked.

“No, sir,” Coleman said.

Smith briefly addressed the situation.
“There have been some easements signed, but they don’t say with any specificity,” Smith said. “They’ll say 15 feet on the east side of the road, or something like that. They’ve only been found within the last two months. It’s hard to say if they would cover any of that. All…every landowner out there has signed an easement, but back in those days – this was 1978 – they were just listed as 15 feet off the road. To say that it covered any of those areas would be up for debate.”
“So have the easements been found?” asked Alderman Quinn Parham.

“All of them but one,” Smith said. “The easement would have been good for anything Mr. Hogan or Mr. Davis did.”

“So if you’ve only found the easements within the last few months, you didn’t research it before the work started,” McConaha said.

Alderman Mike Savage made a motion to turn the issue over to Smith, and was seconded by Willis. It passed unanimously. Smith said he was going to turn the issue over to the town’s insurance carrier.

“I’m not going to fight this,” McConaha said. “I’m not going to fight anybody. I’m just going to file charges against Caledonia Water Department for trespassing, destruction of property and vandalism. A point needs to be made.”

In other business, the board went into executive session for about an hour and a half to discuss a personnel issue. Water Department employee Trey Robertson has filed a grievance against Coleman, alleging that he has not been given a raise he is owed for getting a water operator’s certification. Robertson gave the grievance to Gerhart in early May, but it was not formally given to the board until earlier this month; Gerhart claims that Robertson asked him to wait to give it to the board. Robertson is claiming that Coleman told him that a decision on his raise would have to wait until a dispute between the Water Department and his parents is resolved.

When the board came out from behind closed doors, they announced that the matter had been turned over to Smith.

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