published Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Fight over Rossville sewer line heats up


by Andy Johns

ROSSVILLE—After being arrested last month for threatening the Rossville sewer system, Peerless Mill owner Les Coffey blasted back Friday at the city, saying he has proof that a disputed sewer line belongs to him.

But Rossville’s attorney cited his own proof, saying the pipes belong to the city.

Coffey presented engineering drawings from 2010 and 1958 that showed lines underneath the mill clearly marked as “private sewer.”

He said the city has used the lines for years and that he was justified in threatening to cut off access because the city hadn’t paid the bill he sent it. He said the city should pay $985,000 for four years’ use of the line.

“This is no different than EPB or Tennessee American. The customer has to pay or get disconnected,” Coffey said.

Coffey was charged with making a terroristic threat. He threatened to cut off the city’s sewer access the day after the city turned off water to the mill because he had not paid the water bill.

Coffey also offered to give the city one of the lines if it would pay for other connections on the line he said are private.

Andy Davis, Rossville’s attorney for the sewer issue, said the city has asked a judge to rule on the sewer’s ownership. He said the city submitted deeds showing it has had an easement along the disputed line for more than 50 years.

“It’s not a case to be tried in the media. It’s pretty straightforward,” Davis said.

He said he did not know when the judge would issue a ruling, which he hoped would resolve the matter.

Coffey and the city have long been at odds, hurling criminal and civil accusations back and forth since Coffey bought the mill in 2007.

On Feb. 7, Coffey was granted a permit from Rossville to tear down the 105-year-old structure, but the next day he was ordered to stop demolition when RDC, the company that sold him the mill and still holds the note on the property, was granted an emergency injunction.

When Peerless Self Storage — Coffey’s company that runs the mill — filed for bankruptcy in December 2008, Coffey owed RDC almost $1.1 million, records show. He also owed creditors, including Tennessee American Water and EPB, $18,514.

Coffey said a court date has not been set for the terroristic threat charge, but he is due to appear in court March 14 for a hearing about the injunction from RDC.

He said he was notified Friday afternoon that mediation on the sewer is scheduled for March 24.

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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