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Dave Olson, Published March 01 2013

Controversial culverts: West Fargo commission eyes partial settlement

WEST FARGO – City commissioners here may decide Monday whether to settle one of two legal actions tied to the city’s use of private property during a 2009 construction project that replaced a Sheyenne River bridge with box culverts.

Both cases are pending in Cass County District Court.

One involves a condemnation action brought by the city against Kevin and Delight Swingen, who live at 115 32nd Ave. E.

That case is on the agenda for Monday night’s commission meeting for possible settlement.

The other action is a lawsuit the Swingens brought against the city and its contractor.

Under one cause of action, the suit claims damage done to the couple’s property constitute a total “taking” by the city and the Swingens are entitled to $200,000, plus interest, which the suit says reflects the value of the property and other damages.

The suit states that if the city’s actions are determined to be less than a total taking, the family is entitled to at least $100,000 in damages.

The suit also provides the court with alternative damages to consider based on a trespass claim.

Under that cause of action, the suit claims $200,000 in damage, plus more than $50,000 for things such as mental suffering, anxiety and inconvenience.

Messages left with the city attorney’s office and the city administrator’s office were not returned Friday.

Delight Swingen referred questions to the family’s attorney, Jonathan Garaas, who declined to comment for this story.

The city’s condemnation action asks the court to grant the city a temporary construction easement at a cost of $88 to the city, the amount the city offered the Swingens for an easement.

The family’s suit against the city described the $88 offer as “preposterous.”

The Swingens’ suit against the city said damage to their property included the loss of trees, destruction of stability to the ground and loss of yard or ground by reshaping of the river banks.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555