A Spokane County Superior Court judge Wednesday made final a $3.5 million verdict in a condemnation case that may be the most expensive ever resolved by an Eastern Washington jury.
With interest and attorneys’ fees, the total cost to the Washington Department of Transportation will be almost $5 million, 10 times the final offer made on property taken for construction of the U.S. Highway 395 bridge over the Little Spokane River.
When completed a year ago, cost of the project was estimated at $10.7 million, but department attorney John Hurley said that assumed only $900,000 in land costs.
He said he will appeal the judgment if not granted a new trial by Judge Richard Schroeder after a Jan. 18 hearing.
The jury returned its verdict Nov. 8, but entry was delayed while the state appealed the fees charged by attorneys Robert Dunn, who represented Acme Concrete Co., and William Symmes, representing the Wandermere Co., and their expert witnesses.
Schroeder made only minor adjustments in claims totaling about $350,000.
The case involves 70 acres. The state took about 5.6 acres for the bridge and approaches, estimating the value of the property at $106,000 as of March 1993.
But the route selected by the state ran through an aggregate and concrete plant operated by Acme and divided what had been an operational gravel site from another where test drilling indicated additional deposits.
In their trial brief, Hurley and associate Bryce Brown said Acme and Wandermere were entitled only to the value of the land taken, not the adjacent acreage, lost opportunities or profits, or value of the businesses.
They also challenged use of estimates that Acme would spend almost $500,000 more per year to haul aggregate from a plant on Park Road in the Spokane Valley to the North Side, where residential growth and road construction had created substantial demand.
Acme’s response claimed state officials never talked to Wandermere, the tracts’ owner, or Acme before deciding to take what was the most expensive route possible across the properties.
The state bulldozed the concrete plant and eliminated the only level site for operation of such a facility.
Also, the state Department of Natural Resources terminated the surface mining permit for the site in 1994.
Acme, the court documents noted, had paid monthly rent of $10,000 on the site even when a slowdown in construction in the late 1980s forced the plant to shut down.
Given the surge in demand for aggregate since the rent had been set, even that amount did not accurately reflect the value of the deposit taken by the state, Acme added.
The state, Symmes said, totally ignored the value of the property as a mine even as it continued to use gravel from the site for area road projects.
Dunn and Symmes said their clients have not determined how the judgment amount will be split when all appeals are settled.