Trial in lawsuit over $18 asseessment is delayed

Friday, September 6, 2019

By Scott Loftis

A final hearing in the class-action lawsuit challenging an $18 assessment levied against property owners in Carroll County has been delayed.

The final hearing had been scheduled for Sept. 13 in Carroll County Circuit Court, but in an Aug. 30 letter to attorneys in the case, Circuit Judge Scott Jackson said he will instead hear arguments that day on a defense motion to dismiss the case.

Jackson rejected an earlier motion for dismissal filed by an attorney for Geoffrey Treece, himself a Little Rock attorney who serves as a court-appointed receiver for the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District.

Defendants in the lawsuit are the solid waste district and Carroll County Tax collector Kay Phillips.

Treece’s attorney, Mary-Tipton Thalheimer, filed a new motion for dismissal in July, after Fayetteville attorneys Matt Bishop and Wendy Howerton filed an amended complaint earlier that month on behalf of plaintiff Paul Summers of Berryville.

Bishop and Howerton filed the original Carroll County lawsuit on Summers’ behalf in May 2018, contending that the $18 assessment is in fact a tax and amounts to an illegal exaction.

The $18 fee, which was included on tax assessments for property owners in Carroll, Baxter, Boone, Marion, Newton and Searcy counties beginning in 2018, is intended to repay bondholders who purchased $12,340,000 in bonds issued by the solid waste district in October 2005 to finance the purchase of the North Arkansas Board of Regional Sanitation (NABORS) Landfill in Baxter County. The assessment, which could continue for 30 years or more, also is intended to repay the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) for up to $16.5 million in costs related to closing and cleaning up the landfill.

Since filing the original complaint on Summers’ behalf, Bishop and Howerton have filed similar lawsuits in the other five counties where the assessments are being levied. The lawsuits seek to have the assessments halted and for property owners who have already paid the assessment to be reimbursed.

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