Leader Blues

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

TOP STORY>> Veterans get toilet after fight with city

IN SHORT: Group files suit to make Cabot officials keep promise to rebuild facilities at park.

By Joan McCoy
Leader staff writer

The veterans group that sold the land to Cabot where the community center is supposed to be built is suing the city over a toilet, but the city now says it will build a toilet after all.

Jack Knox, representing Cabot War Veterans Memorial Associ-ation, filed suit in circuit court last week. The suit says the city has not lived up to its contractual obligation to provide a permanent restroom on the property which also holds a veterans monument.

The suit was made public at the end of the Monday night city council meeting by Alderman Odis Way-mack, who wanted to appoint the council’s veterans to deal with Knox. City Attorney Ken Williams said at this point the council can only deal with Larry Cook, Knox’s lawyer.

But the council decided that the only proper action, considering the city had violated the contract with the veterans, was to give Knox what he wanted and told the mayor to get it started.
“We need to build a restroom,” Alderman Bob Duke said.

A unisex restroom will cost about $10,000, Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh told the council, adding that he has already obtained plans for the project.

The city did build a permanent restroom on the property but tore it down to start the dirt work for the planned, but not completely funded community center.

Stumbaugh told the council that he had a handicapped portable toilet placed near the veterans’ memorial after Knox complained, but the city’s contract with the veterans says it must be permanent and public and they will accept nothing less.

Carroll Astin, director of city parks, said the suit was filed after the parks commission declined to honor the veterans’ request that a new restroom be built near the monument.

The property is located across the street from Cabot High School and the commission is concerned that a public restroom so near a school could be dangerous for the students, Astin said.

“A public restroom that near a school could be a breeding ground for illicit activities,” he said.

Stumbaugh listed some of those feared activities during the city council meeting: sex, drugs and vandalism.

The commission told the veterans that when the community center is built, the visitors to the monument may use the restrooms in the center.

Astin said that even before the restroom was razed, it was not really public. It was left locked until the veterans needed it for some event.

Knox, 80, and one of only five of the 105 veterans who bought the property where the community center is to be built, said he is suing because he had no success in trying to work with city officials.

“What gets me is that we had a restroom and they tore it down,” Knox said.

Furthermore, he said the restroom was not even on the land the veterans sold to the city but on the part they retained for their monument.

Knox thinks little of the park commission’s plan to allow the veterans to use the restroom in a community center which may not even be built.

“We have people coming there in wheelchairs and walkers and no place to relieve themselves,” he said.

The city bought the property from the veterans group about five years ago, paying $50,000 for about eight acres, Knox said.

Waymack learned about the suit Friday and said he was disturbed that no one had told the council it was even a possibility.

The mayor and some members of the council have talked a lot in recent months about the importance of keeping their word and allowing a one-cent sales tax to sunset as promised, Waymack said.
Waymack supports using the tax to build a $16 million sewer plant and to pay for other projects including the community center.

“They say they must follow the law by letting the tax end, but the city council is responsible by law for all the city’s property and I didn’t find out about this lawsuit until after it was filed,” he said.