Several large potholes on Griffith Street — which runs east/west between North West Avenue and North Jefferson Avenue along the north portion of Mellor Park Mall — were filled this week by Union County Judge Mike Loftin.
“There was some economic development concerns,” Loftin said. “And that’s the safest place in that area to turn onto North West since it has a red light.”
Repairing the street is a contentious issue: mall owners Dr. Surendra and Sajal Agarwal are suing the City of El Dorado through their Multi-State Holdings company. According to the lawsuit, they claim the city has an “apparent, implied easement traversing Mellor Park’s property for the purpose of public storm water drainage and should therefore be responsible for and undertake immediately the repair and maintenance of the storm drainage pipe.”
Former El Dorado Mayor Mike Dumas told the News-Times earlier this month that his predecessor, his own administration and subsequent mayors, the city has assumed the responsibility of maintaining the street surface, but the street has never been dedicated to the city and there has been “friction” about drainage infrastructure underneath the street.
The city doesn’t own the street or have an easement to repair the street, city officials say. In 1984, the city and the previous mall owners reached a license agreement to extend Griffin Street to Jefferson Street “to relieve the heavy traffic across the mall parking lot.” But the land has never been deeded to the city.
In a response to the lawsuit from El Dorado City Attorney Henry Kinslow, the city said the problem has developed over decades and Multi-State has allowed it to fester “until it has created a crisis and is demanding the taxpayers of El Dorado to fix same.” Kinslow said the city has offered to repair the street surface if the Agarwals pay to fix drainage infrastructure beneath the street.
El Dorado Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer said Loftin didn’t consult or inform her of his decision to fill some of the potholes on Griffith.
“There was a lack of respect on his part to consider doing that without speaking to me,” she said. “Patching those holes is like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. I know a lot of residents are happy the holes are patched, but it’s a temporary fix to a major issues. I don’t know that him patching the holes stops or impacts the litigation. I understand why he did it, but I think we’ve given the mall owner too much, using taxpayer money to take care of something that’s not ours. It’s his property, he should maintain it.”
Loftin said he used asphalt cold patch to fill some of the potholes near the red light connecting Griffith and North West Avenue as a temporary fix. He said the county will not fix the road permanently since typically, the city would be responsible for repairing roads within the city limits.
Loftin said he would consider putting a temporary fix in again if it should become necessary. He said the job took less than an hour and estimated that it cost only a few hundred dollars, noting the repair was requested by the Union County-El Dorado Chamber of Commerce.
“A lot of people go through there and it was causing some problems,” he said.
Because of the ongoing litigation, Chamber president and CEO Bill Luther declined to comment on the matter.