Arkansas Town Sues Owners of Buildings that Collapsed

September 15, 2011

The owners of two buildings in Morrilton that collapsed in May, killing a 2-year-old girl and injuring her mother, have been sued by the city in an attempt to get the sited cleaned up.

The lawsuit filed in Conway County Circuit Court by Morrilton city attorney Bart F. Virden seeks to declare that the property is “a nuisance” and is “detrimental to the health, safety and welfare of the city and the citizens ….,” the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported in Tuesday’s editions.

The lawsuit also asks the court to order the property owners to immediately remove the debris, and to use its “supervisory authority and impose whatever sanctions, penalty or damages it might deem necessary. …”

Alissa Jones was killed and her mother, Erin Coffman, was seriously injured when the buildings, owned by J.J. Magie and Brian and Jenifer Andrews, came down on May 16.

Magie’s two-story building housed two businesses, and the one-story building owned by Brian and Jenifer Andrews was being renovated at the time of the collapse.

Officials haven’t determined what caused the buildings to come down.

Morrilton Mayor Stewart Nelson said city officials have done everything they can to keep from entering into litigation.

“There is no question that this is a hazard, and there is the potential for someone else to get hurt. I am frustrated beyond belief right now,” Nelson said.

Magie said Monday he wants the debris cleaned up “as much as anyone else.”

“We are just trying to find someone to do it. The mayor says a lot of people are saying it’s unsightly. Well, we know it is. We want it gone.”

Brian Andrews said that the initial plan was to hire a Morrilton company to clean up the rubble, but the company “wanted us to sign off on our own liability for the cleanup, and we just couldn’t afford to do that.”

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality ordered the owners to have their properties inspected for asbestos. That inspection found asbestos in five of 16 samples tested.

Removal cost estimates went from $25,000 to $64,000, plus another $10,000 to $20,000 in landfill fees.

Andrews said he and Magie are looking for another company to haul away the debris.

“It’s been tough to find someone willing to do the job,” Magie said. “We are doing our best to find someone as quickly as possible.”

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