Businesses sue city over street improvement project

by Associated Press

Published: November 18,2013

Tags: City of Hattiesburg, infrastructure, Johnny Dupree, justice, Justin Green, law, lawsuit, legal, transportation, travel

StreetWork_archived(11457398-EBEA+1-419)HATTIESBURG — Four businesses on a busy Hattiesburg Street are suing Hattiesburg city government, claiming a street improvement project has cost them customers.

The project on Hardy Street began Oct. 30, 2012, according to The Hattiesburg American. The work is nearly complete and traffic is flowing again. But Justin Green says customers have gotten out of the habit of stopping at his business, Firehouse Subs, and he is still feeling the effects.

Green is a plaintiff in a lawsuit also filed by representatives of three other businesses asking for unspecified damages. The suit says the work lasted past its expected completion date. City officials say bad weather and unforeseen utility conflicts caused problems but the newly widened street will provide better access to businesses.

“While it took a while — and we certainly are so deeply sorry that it took so long — that was not the intent,” Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree said. “The intent was to have what you see out there now, a road that people are proud of. … It’s a road that gives greater and better access to their businesses, and hopefully, when we finish the lighting and all the other things, it will be even more attractive.”

The businesses argue in the complaint that the project failed to comply with plans, specifications and regulations, resulting in water and sewer lines being dug up and reinstalled as well as tearing up completed work to properly replace fill soil underneath the street.

The suit charges that during the project, portions of Hardy Street as well as side access streets were unreasonably closed, and that access to the businesses was blocked by heavy machinery — which was also parked in the businesses’ parking lots without permission.

Answers to the lawsuit filed by the city, the engineering firm and the road contractor deny liability for any loss in business through various arguments, including immunity and failure to exhaust administrative remedies, among others.

Hattiesburg’s answer also cites various state laws authorizing municipalities to close portions of roads for public purposes and that put full jurisdiction and responsibility for street maintenance on the shoulders of municipalities. The answer also notes that the streets were never closed under the definition of state law.

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