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County to file claim of damages against Toppenish

YAKIMA - Yakima County commissioners, Tuesday morning, decided the time is right to take action against the City of Toppenish for what the county feels was misleading information that led to the county purchasing more than 30 acres for the siting of the Yakima Valley Justice Center, which is now being built at a site near the Central Washington State Fairgrounds in Yakima.

Commissioner Jim Lewis explained that this is something the county has been looking into since last year. He added that the county decided to put off the issue of the Toppenish property until after the jail had been otherwise sited, then after the primary election.

"We did this reluctantly," Lewis said.

The commissioners, Tuesday, authorized the filing of a claim for damages with the City of Toppenish. The claim deals with the county's acquisition of land and what the county feels was a misrepresentation made by the City of Toppenish in regards to the water rights available on the property.

According to the resolution passed by commissioners, the county states that the City of Toppenish when they submitted a proposal for the siting of the new jail in its community, a requirement of the submission of the proposals, was the city had to certify that they could provide water and sewer to the property.

According to the county, not only did the City of Toppenish make note of the fact that water and sewer were available, but so did the engineering firm of Gray and Osborne, hired by Toppenish.

Yakima County spent $513,000 to purchase the Toppenish property, which appraised at $85,000. The county abandoned the property and ultimately decided to locate the new jail facility in Yakima.

Lewis said filing a claim of damages is the first step. He explained that the claim will go to the City of Toppenish's insurance carrier, where it will be settled or denied. If it's denied and there is no settlement, the next step will be to take the claim to court.

"It's not our intent to get $674,951 out of the Toppenish general fund," Lewis said. "They're in about as bad a [financial] shape as we are."

The claim for damages totals $674,951, and includes the cost to purchase the property, as well as engineering costs, environmental testing costs, surveying costs and other preliminary costs.

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