Fulton innkeeper seeks reimbursement for damage

Itawamba County StockBy Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

A Fulton innkeeper believes the city should pay for damages caused to the parking lot of his business during the repair of a new water meter.

During last week’s regular meeting of the Fulton Board of Alderman, Charlie Graham, owner of American’s Inn on Access Road, asked city officials to pay for repairs to his parking lot which he claimed happened when a contractor with Siemens Engineering Company was fixing a water leak. According to the business owner, the new water meter was installed in early April, part of a citywide project. But the meter leaked, he said. Workers returned approximately two weeks later to repair the busted meter. When they left, Graham noticed several cracks in his parking lot where their truck had been parked.

“I walked out there as they pulled away and saw the crack,” he told the board, presenting them with photographs of the damage.

The truck, a dual-axle Ford F150, reportedly carried four or five meters in its bed. Each meter weighs approximately 50 pounds.

The lot, Graham said, had been repaved, sealed and striped just a few weeks prior to the meter’s installation. He said it was likely the asphalt hadn’t fully settled when contractors installed the meter, making it more susceptible to damage.

Graham said he would like for the city to pay for the repaving, resealing and restriping of the inn’s parking lot. He gave city officials a ballpark estimate of $2,500 to do the work, although he said this number was an “educated guess.” Graham offered to obtain quotes if the board wanted.

“It’s not the city’s fault; it’s the contractor’s. But the city hired the contractor … the city is ultimately responsible,” Graham said.

Officials asked why they couldn’t simply fill in the cracks. Graham said the lot wouldn’t look uniform without completely resealing and restriping it.

According to Fulton City Manager Stacy Smith, who examined the damage, it’s impossible to tell when and how the lot was damaged.

“Who’s to know who did it? I don’t know who did it,” Smith said. “I don’t think the city is responsible.”

Additionally, the asphalt on the lot itself wasn’t very thick, he said, perhaps making it more susceptible to cracking. He said if a good base had been put down, the lot likely wouldn’t have cracked under the weight of a truck.

Graham disagreed, stating that the asphalt is several inches thick in most places but added he felt the thickness of the lot was neither here nor there. Graham likened the situation to having a cheap paint job on a car: Even if the paint is more likely to chip, that doesn’t mean when another vehicle bumps it and removes some paint, the driver isn’t responsible.

“It’s just the principle of it,” he said. “I’ve been a good citizen and paid a lot of taxes.”

According to Smith, representatives with Siemens Engineering Company examined the lot at the same time he did and determined they weren’t responsible for the damage.

Aldermen seemed willing to work with Graham to resolve the issue, although they didn’t vote either way.

“We want to do what’s right,” Ward II Alderman Mike Nanney told Graham. “We’re not here to rip you off.”

Nanney added that he didn’t think the city should have to pay to reseal the entire parking lot, however.

Graham apologized for his frustration, adding that after six months, he’s ready for the issue to be resolved.

Both Graham and the board agreed they want to resolve the issue in the fairest way possible. Citing that goal, the board tabled the issue to further investigate the situation and attempt to make the most balanced call on how to resolve it.

adam.armour@journalinc.com