By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
The open portion of Monday night’s regular meeting of the Williamsburg City Council was just over 15 minutes long — it was the 45-minute executive session that kept council members there for more than an hour.
Mayor Roddy Harrison opened the meeting, the roll was called and minutes from past meetings were approved.
Harrison then asked if there was anyone in attendance who would like to bring business to the floor.
No one spoke.
Then it was time for the executive session — Harrison said it was concerning litigation.
Council member Troy Sharp motioned to go into the session, with a second from council member Mary Ann Stanfill. Council members were unanimous with this decision.
That was 5:05 p.m.
At 5:50 p.m., Council member Laurel West reopened the meeting room — and the meeting was reopened.
Harrison said that no action was taken during the executive session.
After the meeting, Harrison confirmed what litigation was discussed — the lawsuit filed by business owners Ron Whittaker and his wife, Donna Whittaker.
According to records in the circuit clerk’s office, the Whittakers filed the lawsuit April 3 — and it concerns the January demolition of the building at 3rd and Main streets in downtown Williamsburg.
That property is owned by the Whitley County Public Library and was purchased with the hopes to renovate and use. The building had been a part of Williamsburg’s skyline for more than a century.
However, after closer inspection, the city realized it was too much of a health and safety hazard, Harrison explained shortly before the building was torn down.
The lawsuit names several defendants, including the city of Williamsburg and all six council members — Sharp, Stanfill, West, Erica Harris, Patty Faulkner and Richard Foley.
Also named in the lawsuit is the Whitley County Public Library District Board of Trustees, which includes Mark White, Maria Harrison, Betty Sue Watson. Alice Fay Wallen and Sharon Shelton.
The city partnered with the county’s library board to pay for the building’s demolition, according to the lawsuit.
Superior Demolition, Inc., based in Lexington, which had been contracted to demolish the building, was also named in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that the city and library board “failed to require Superior Demolition, Inc., to follow the standards, codes, regulations and laws for the safe demolition of the building in a municipality and protection of adjoining property and citizens and the lawful disposal of the refuse therefrom.”
According to the court documents, more than $40,000 was incurred by the Whittakers in their business, Scissor’s Edge, during the demolition process performed by Superior and paid for by the city and library board.
The lawsuit also alleges the defendants “created an imminent danger of injury or death” to the Whittakers and/or their customers, forcing the couple to close their doors and lose more than $5,000 in revenue.
Further, the lawsuit alleges that the actions of the demolition company, the city and the library board “were with gross negligence, ill will, oppression, and with total disregard for the life and property” of the Whittakers — and entitles the couple to more than $5,000 in punitive damages.
The Whittakers’ lawsuit also alleges that the defendants “failed and refused” to make emergency repairs to the Whittakers’ business.
The Whittakers are represented by attorney David O. Smith, of Corbin, who filed the court documents.
In other Williamsburg news:
— Mayor Harrison told council members that with the new retail areas developing, several businesses have committed to setting up shop — including Factory Connection, a vapor shop, Hibbits and The Dollar Tree, as well as the relocation of Radio Shack.
He also hinted around about a possible restaurant development, provided the as-now-unnamed eatery gets some better visibility. Harrison explained there are talks in the works with Walmart to help add some of the needed visibility for the potential restaurant development.
“If we can get the trees down, (the restaurant could build),” Harrison said. “Keep your fingers crossed.”
— Williamsburg’s Community Easter Egg Hunt is slated for 1 p.m. Saturday, April 19, at Briar Creek Park. The age groups are 1-3, 4-6 and 7-10, with first, second and third place prizes for each age group. Harrison said there could be a “special guest.”