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BENTONVILLE -- A judge found Jim Parsons hadn't presented any facts to support his lawsuit to recoup taxpayer money being used to battle an underground fire in Bella Vista.

Benton County Circuit Judge John Scott presided over a hearing Thursday where Cooper Communities and the Bella Vista Property Owners Association, defendants in the lawsuit, asked it be dismissed.

Parsons, a Bella Vista resident, is suing Cooper Communities, the association, Tom Fredericks, who owned Blue Mountain Storage, and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

Parsons acted as his own attorney.

David Matthews, one of Cooper's attorneys, described the lawsuit as one of illegal exaction, but there must be evidence presented money has been misappropriated.

Matthews said Parsons presented photographs taken in 2008 of concrete drums with "COOPER" on them being placed in the old stump dump on Trafalgar Road where the fire has burned since July. The statute of limitations had passed, and there was no basis for the lawsuit, Matthews said.

Parsons admitted no taxpayer money had been used wrongly in the case. However, he felt a misappropriation could take place if the state doesn't recoup the millions of dollars set aside to put out the fire. Hundreds of people are suffering because of the fire, and it's too early to dismiss the case, Parsons said.

"Right now, bulldozers are digging up the facts, the truth and the evidence," Parsons said of preparation work being done at the site. The site work is needed before remediation can begin.

Max Deitchler, one of the attorneys for the Property Owners Association, told the judge tax money hadn't been misapplied in any way. Deitchler also urged for a dismissal.

Scott said Parsons hadn't alleged any facts or Arkansas laws to support his case concerning Cooper and the Property Owners Association. The judge dismissed the two from the lawsuit. The judge ordered Parsons to pay the attorney fees for Cooper and the association.

Parsons has been unable to serve Fredericks, and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality hasn't filed a response, so they are the remaining parties in Parsons lawsuit.

Fredericks once owned the stump dump property.

Parsons said he doesn't regret filing the lawsuit and believes it points out who's responsible for the fire, and it may help the government recoup taxpayer money.

Firefighters discovered the underground fire at the closed stump dump July 29. It's still burning.

ADEQ said last month the site must be excavated to ensure the underground fire is extinguished and won't reignite.

The department received $20 million, drawn from state government reserve funds, to get work started to extinguish the fire. The cost, including cleanup, could be between $21 million and $39 million, according to state estimates.

The state expects to recoup its money from past owners and operators of the landfill, according to a spokesman for the governor's office.

Tom Judson, the Bella Vista Property Owners Association's chief operating officer, has said the association operated the dump on leased land from December 2003 to Dec. 31, 2016, when it was covered with soil.

Nobody monitored the site the last few years it was open, but staff members would remove trash when possible, Judson has said. The property is now owned by Brown's Tree Care.

General News on 04/17/2019

Print Headline: Dismissals in stump dump fire case

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