Greenetrack, Inc. filed suit in Greene County Circuit Court, April 23, 2012, naming Greene County, Greene County Commission and the Greene County Water and Sewer Authority as defendants.
This suit comes following disagreements between Greenetrack and the County Commission as to which components of the Greenetrack premises are co-owned by these two entities. The disagreement arose once the 10 year easement agreement involving the Greene County Water and Sewer Authority expired.
On March 27, 2001, Greenetrack, Inc. and the Greene County Commission entered into an agreement granting the Greene County Water and Sewer Authority (GCWSA) a 10 year easement on Subject Property, as named in the suit, (Greenetrack’s premises) to service sewer lines and operate the lagoon on said property. This easement agreement expired March 27, 2011.
According to Greenetrack CEO Luther Winn, Vincent Atkins, Manager/Operator of GCWSA, was informed in writing that the lease agreement granting GCWSA easement to the property had expired. Winn contends that the intent of his notice was to inform Atkins that the GCWSA not longer had rights to enter the property to work with the lagoon.
Atkins approached the County Commission which is the co-owner of the property with Greenetrack seeking permission to enter the property to the lagoon. Subsequently, the commission issued such a permit in writing to Atkins on April 5, 2012. The Commission’s permit to Atkins was not honored by Greenetrack.Winn contends that, even though the Greene County Commission is co-owner of the Subject Property, the Commission has forfeited its rights through a separate agreement in which the Commission leased its half ownership of the property to Greenetrack for a fee. The current lease was executed April 1, 2008 for a period of 20 years. The Greenetrack Suit states “…Defendant GCC only has the right to enter the Subject Property to conduct inspections during normal business hours, after providing reasonable notice to Plaintiff Greenetrack.”
Attorney Barrown Lankster, representing the Greene County Water and Sewer Authority, said that Alabama Property Law allows co-tenants to grant access to another party over the objection of the joint tenant. “It is the GCWSA’s position that the Greene County Commission has the authority to grant easement to the property,” he explained.
The Greenetrack suit acknowledges that the 2008 lease agreement with the County Commission is vague in some respects: “Lease of Premises: The Landlord (Greenetrack) does hereby lease to the Lessee (Greene County) and the Lessee does hereby lease from the Landlord, the building known as the Greenetrack Greyhound Park located at: See Exhibit A attached hereto..”
In the suit, filed last week, Greenetrack is asking the Court to declare that Greenetrack and Greene County own an undivided interest in the Subject Property subject to the 2008 lease agreement; that the 2008 lease agreement provides Greenetrack “…rights to quiet enjoyment and exclusive possession of the Subject Property subject only to the County’s rights of inspection as described in the 2008 lease agreement;” that the Easement Agreement has expired and that none of the parties have any remaining rights under said agreement; that the ADEM Permit does not entitle GCWSA access or use of the Subject Property and thus GCWSA cannot be the operator of the Lagoon; that Greenetrack as sole entity of Subject Property, including the lagoon, does not owe any fees for sewer services after March 27, 2011. The suit asks for other monetary relief.
The Greene County Water and Sewer Authority holds a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit from the Alabama Department of Environment Management (ADEM) to service the lagoon. Atkins stated that he continued to service the lagoon on the Subject Property until March, 2012, when Greenetrack personnel physically barred his entry to the lagoon by installing locks.
According to Atkins, he attempted on three occasions since, accompanied by Sheriff’s deputies, to gain access to the Subject Property to service the lagoon and was denied access for that purpose each time. Upon each attempt by Atkins, Winn stated that he told Atkins that the Greene County Water and Sewer Authority had no right to enter the property of the lagoon. Winn explained that Atkins could enter the lagoon as an agent of the County Commission, but not of the GCWSA. The ADEM permit only authorizes Atkins to monitor the lagoon as an agent of the GCWSA.
Greenetrack also contends that the property housing the lagoon is not part of the co-owned property with Greene County.
Since Atkins and the GCWSA has been denied access to service the lagoon, Greenetrack’s CEO, Winn, has engaged Southwest Water Company to conduct an assessment of the wastewater treatment lagoon at issue. Winn stated Greenetrack is prepared to work with Southwest Water Company to continue service to the lagoon.
During the 10 year easement agreement, the lagoon serviced other businesses in the corridor and at least two residences. However, since the 2011 Greene County Water and Sewer Easement Agreement expired, two Bingo gaming entities, Greene Charity Bingo and Lucky Star Bingo, have opened in facilities already connected to the lagoon on the Greenetrack premises, the Subject Property of the suit. It is likely that the increased activities at these establishments has affected the capacity of the lagoon.
In a prepared statement, Winn explained that the purpose of the three-party lease agreement was to assist the GCWSA with sewage issues faced by businesses and homes located off Exit 45 (Union Corridor). After the lease agreement was signed, the GCWSA returned to Greenetrack for more assistance, indicating the county was not collecting enough payments to operate the system.
“Greenetrack agreed and from that point paid $1,300 for the operation of the lagoon and the upkeep of the grounds surrounding the lagoon,” said Winn.
Winn stated that the lagoon was originally constructed to service the operations at Greenetrack. In 2001, Greenetrack agreed to allow Greene County to connect its current clients to the lagoon, since the County’s water and sewer system and service for that area was in jeopardy. Winn clarified that Greenetrack, at that time, did not anticipate that multiple clients would be added to the lagoon. He said that in 2001, in addition to Greenetrack, one hotel, one service station and two residences were connected to the lagoon.
Winn also concedes that the two Bingo gaming enterprises connected to the lagoon are Greenetrack’s competitors. “These businesses should construct or provide for their own sewer systems. Greenetrack should not have to reinvest in its lagoon to accommodate them. The lagoon in its present state cannot adequately serve the increased usage,” he said.
When asked to comment on the Greenetrack suit, Greene County Commission Chairperson, Nick Underwood stated: “The Greene County Commission welcomes the lawsuit in that the commission in its meeting of September, 2011 concluded that the lagoon was a public utility, therefore subject to the use of all the businesses and residences along the 208 Union Corridor.
“It would be a mockery to the confines of justice if Greenetrack was given control of the lagoon and could cut off any of its competitors at will. Well over $1 million dollars in federal funding was used to renovate and upgrade the lagoon system.
“There is a federal interest involved here and both the county and Greenetrack gave assurance that it would protect the federal interest by insuring use of the lagoon without discrimination. Moreover, there is a public safety issue here. If the lagoon is not operated properly it would create a nightmare and we would lose all of the businesses along the 208 Union Corridor.
“Time after time, the Greene County Water and Sewer Authority has attempted to enter and been denied.”
All parties hope the issues will be expedited swiftly through the courts.
Pictured to the top right is the UVC Water Purification Chamber for the lagoon which must be maintained.
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