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Rectifying a smelly mistake will likely cost one small Arkansas city $30,000

A Hot Spring County family says a sewage pump built on their property by the city of Rockport was placed there without their permission. (Photo: KATV)

A Hot Spring county family is crying foul over a sewage pump that they say was placed on their property without their permission. The city and engineering firm behind the project are now apologizing and trying to make the situation right.

The new sewage system recently built in Rockport was built all in the name of growing the small city. The sewage system includes five sewage pump stations, one of which was built near the corner of Babcock and Military Road - right on the edge of 95-year-old Farrell Richardson's 60-acre property.

"I had given them permission to do the sewer line," recalled Richardson. "No big deal - you can't see it - that's alright."

While Richardson admits to giving verbal consent to having the city's new sewer line run by his house, Richardson said he never told anyone it was okay for the city to put a pump on the property he's owned since 1943.

Wesley Hunt, an attorney and Richardson's grandson, got involved after he felt his grandfather was taken advantage of.

"You don't have to be a lawyer to understand the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution," said Hunt. "Almost everybody knows you can't take land without just compensation."

Richardson's property wasn't even supposed to be used for the project. Land the city had purchased adjacent to Richardson's property for the pump was later determined to drain into a river used for Malvern's drinking water. That's when a city employee allegedly approached Richardson about using his property for the pump.

"Our city employee says Mr. Richardson gave him permission to put it on their property," said Darrell Hughes, mayor of Rockport. "We didn't have it in writing, but we did have permission."

While the city claims they had verbal consent, the he said/she said situation wouldn't hold up in court. When asked why the city or contractor would move forward with construction without expressed written consent, Hughes claims that's what the engineering firm told the city to do.

"What our engineer said was that something they'll do that to keep the project going," said Hughes. "Once they get permission they'll go ahead and do the project and then at the end they'll come back and get the written legal description."

The engineer involved in the project is State Rep. Tim Lemons. Lemons told KATV his firm will often stake out and put fencing around a proposed project on verbal consent, but Lemons said they never actually move forward with construction until there is something in writing. Lemons admitted their usual protocol wasn't followed in this situation.

Richardson said he doesn't want to be compensated for his land; he wants the pump removed completely. Tuesday, the Rockport city council voted unanimously to have the pump removed. While the pump originally cost close to $80,000 to construct, Lemons told KATV that since most of the equipment for the pump is salvageable, the cost to move the pump off Richardson's property is estimated between $25,000-$30,000.

Richardson's family said they're pleased with the city council's decision to remove the pump from their property, but they said they definitely want to see the agreement in writing.

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