AT&T is suing Rankin County, MS, in U.S. District Court for Southern Mississippi, for relocation expenses incurred when the county required the carrier to move its distribution and other equipment for a road expansion project from a leased easement from a private property owner that it had acquired in 1991.
AT&T alleges that after Rankin County announced that it would widen Andrew Chapel Road and AT&T would have to move its facilities, the county was notified in September 2020 by the carrier that the estimated cost would be $210,128.00.
AT&T said the actual cost the county would be obligated to pay would be $163,900.00, reflecting the cost of moving Facilities located in the easements, and AT&T would be responsible for $46,228.00, relating to the costs of moving facilities located in the public right-of-way.
AT&T’s estimate made it clear that it was not seeking reimbursement for work unrelated to relocation, such as upgrades.
“Despite having actual knowledge of AT&T’s easements and facilities, and despite having 12 years to plan, the County’s bond process did not include any funds for and made no provision to compensate AT&T for the taking of its easements and facilities that the County intended,” AT&T said in its complaint.
The county’s intention not to pay AT&T relocation costs surfaced when AT&T questioned why its relocation permits were suspended and received correspondence on October 20, 2020, from Craig L. Slay, the board attorney for the Ranking County Board of Supervisors:
“In summary, all AT&T permits have been placed in suspense because AT&T is intending to charge Rankin County the sum of approximately $210,000 in relocation costs associated with the Andrew Chapel Road Project. This road project has been planned by Rankin County for over 12 years. Roughly one year ago, my Board issued a general obligation bond that FINALLY set in motion the construction of this incredibly important road project. In December 2019, Rankin County convened a meeting with all utilities that have infrastructure along Andrew Chapel Road and advised all utilities to begin implementing the relocation of all lines. Over nine months later, AT&T sends Rankin County a demand for $210,000 in ‘costs.’ This is totally unacceptable. Rankin County taxpayers should not bear any of this burden. This project has a finite amount of funds assigned to it. There are no funds to pay this demand.”
As a result of the county’s permit denials, AT&T filed a lawsuit in state court. The permitting issue was subsequently resolved, the permits were issued, the litigation was dismissed, and the parties agreed to hold AT&T’s claims related to the payment of relocation expenses in abeyance to be pursued later if needed.
That date arrived on Monday when AT&T filed its complaint for monetary damages, arguing that the county’s actions amounted to taking AT&T’s property without compensation.