No trial date yet in suit over $18 charge

Friday, January 10, 2020

By Scott Loftis


No trial date has been officially scheduled in a class-action lawsuit challenging a controversial $18 assessment being charged to property owners in Carroll County, the county circuit clerk’s office said Monday.

Carroll County Circuit Judge Scott Jackson denied motions for summary judgment filed by attorneys on both sides of the case at the conclusion of a hearing Nov. 26 in Berryville, at the same time denying defense motions to dismiss the case.

After making his ruling, Jackson told attorneys to consider three possible trial dates in early 2020: Feb. 21, March 6 or March 13. He said the parties would schedule a conference call the next week to determine a trial date but no scheduling order has been entered.

The $18 fee, which is being charged to property owners in the six counties included in the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District, 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.Fayetteville attorneys Matt Bishop and Wendy Howerton filed the class action lawsuit on Summers’ behalf in Carroll County Circuit Court in May 2018. They later filed similar lawsuits in the other five counties — Baxter, Boone, Marion, Newton and Searcy — where the $18 fee is being levied. The lawsuits seek to have collection of the fee halted and for property owners who have already paid the fee to be reimbursed.

Bishop and Howerton filed an amended complaint in Carroll County in July 2019. Defendants in the case are the Ozark Mountain Solid Waste District and Carroll County tax collector Kay Phillips.

The $18 fee is being collected under an order from Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox, who presided over a case in which Bank of the Ozarks (now Bank OZK) sued the solid waste district on behalf of the bondholders. Fox’s order followed the recommendation of Geoffrey Treece, a Little Rock attorney whom the judge appointed to serve as a receiver for the solid waste district.

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