A small slab of rarely used concrete could cost taxpayers in Ft. Oglethorpe $80,000, and maybe much more.
FT. OGLETHORPE, Ga. -- A small slab of rarely used concrete could cost taxpayers in Ft. Oglethorpe $80,000, and maybe much more.
The concrete, placed on an historic piece of property for the city's cricket enthusiasts, has been the subject of a long running legal battle that isn't ready to end.
Sharon Anderson, who lives across the street from the property, says Ft. Oglethorpe is hardly a hotbed for cricket.
"The only time I've seen anyone at that cricket pitch they were taking pictures," Anderson said.
A jury recently ruled on a lawsuit filed by Anderson, ordering Ft. Oglethorpe to remove the cement cricket slab and pay Anderson for her attorney's fees.
But the fight goes on.
"By the time this is all said and done, this is not going to be an $80,000 slab of concrete, this is going to be a $250,000 dollar slab of concrete," Laura Eschleman, Anderson's lawyer said.
The game of cricket is a big deal in places like Australia and South Africa. Ft. Oglethorpe's City Manager says when a group of enthusiasts approached the city about playing on the historic Polo Fields, the city council agreed to pour them a cricket pitch.
Anderson and other neighbors warned the city that the slab of concrete violated Ft. Oglethorpe's charter, which was amended in 1996 to forbid any new construction on the Polo Field. The land was once part of a military installation where soldiers, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, trained and marched.
The city insisted they had not violated the charter and refused to remove the concrete pitch. The legal battle was on.
"They just didn't want a citizen to tell them they were wrong," Anderson said. "It's crazy."
Both sides blame the other for prolonging the four year legal fight.
"If you were to see the complaint we were served, you could see this was clearly a case of abusive litigation," Ft. Oglethorpe City Manager Ron Goulart said.
Anderson says she filed her lawsuit against the city fearing the concrete slab would lead to more construction.
"I felt I really didn't have a choice, that if somebody didn't stand up to them they would get away with this," Anderson said. "They could build buildings, pave it, do whatever they wanted to.
"I'm not responsible for this $80,000, the city is," Anderson said. "They're the ones that chose to do this."
In court, testimony revealed there had been exactly one cricket match on the sight in five years.
A jury sided with Anderson, ordering the city to remove the pitch and pay $80,000 worth of Anderson's legal bills.
"The city fathers followed bad advice," Anderson said. "That's what cost them that amount of money, not me."
Ft. Oglethorpe isn't giving in. The city has asked for a new trial. The risk is that the cost to the tax payers will climb even higher.
"I don't have a choice because of the amount and the issue involved," Goulart said. "Obviously it costs money to litigate. It's something you've got to do. You've got to defend your position."
Goulart believes the city will ultimately prevail and wipe out the $80,000 price tag. Anderson and her lawyer disagree.
"I think it's awful they've wasted this kind of money," Anderson said. "$80,000 is a lot of money in my book."
Meanwhile that slab of concrete, 10-feet by 30-feet in size, sits and deteriorates, looking less and less impressive as its price tag keeps climbing.