NAF trial may move to Washington County

From Staff Reports

   Attorneys for North American Fibers Corporation are awaiting a hearing to determine if a lawsuit filed by the city of Elizabethton in 2000 will be tried in Washington County instead of Carter County. Three Carter County residents who were jurors have filed affidavits (a written declaration made upon oath) stating the company cannot receive a fair trial because they (the jurors) have a direct interest in the case that makes it impossible for them to make an objective decision.
   The city filed the lawsuit against NAF on August 16, 2000, complaining that an NAF landfill was sitting on top of one of the city's main sewer lines. The city asked that NAF remove material and grant access to the sewer line so that city workers could inspect and maintain it.
   The city said it paid $10,000 for a sewer easement in 1957, then built the 24-inch West End interceptor which served approximately 40 percent of the population at the time the suit was filed. City Manager, Charles Stahl, said the city was concerned the sewer might be deteriorating or in danger of collapsing from the weight of the landfill.
   In the motion for a change of venue, NAF said the city had been allowed to change its original complaint to include recovery of expenses from the new sewer line the city built to bypass the old one. However, the city said it spent $1,102,745 for the new bypass and that additional interest and debt from the new line is expected to cost $328,841.24 over a 20-year period at the current interest rate of 2.8 percent.
   The Carter County jurors said they have a personal stake in the outcome of the case because taxes will rise if the costs of the new sewer line aren't turned over to NAF. "The importance of taxes and the amount in controversy lead me to conclude that it will not be possible to find a jury panel in Carter County able to put aside entirely the effect of their decision on their interests and those of their friends and neighbors," the three jurors said.
   Carter County Clerk and Master, Charlotte McKeehan, said her office is waiting to hear from the attorneys for NAF so that a date can be set for the hearing.