The city of Sunnyside and Prosser contractor Tom Paul are talking about a deal that would end a land dispute along South First Street and provide a step forward in widening the busy roadway.
Paul is no longer represented by Zillah attorney J.J. Sandlin and is talking with city officials himself about getting a deal done.
"I'm working directly with the city in negotiations," Paul said. "It's opening up a lot more avenues for discussion."
That, Paul asserts, has been the trouble all along, as he and Sandlin sought a face-to-face with the city government which, at the time, was headed by Bob Stockwell.
Paul added, "Everybody wants to get the road project done. The next step is to get appraisal of the property."
The property he refers to is a 15-foot wide no-man's land that Paul and the city have both staked a claim to. Sunnyside has gone so far as to file what is called a quiet title action in Yakima County Superior Court to get a judge to weigh in on the deadlock
An April 2008 hearing is scheduled on the quiet title, but it may be an afterthought given talks are underway now.
"We are discussing potential ways to settle and resolve the case," confirmed Sunnyside City Attorney Mark Kunkler. "On the whole it's very encouraging to meet with him (Paul)."
There is a warming trend in his contact with the city-especially since the city dropped a misdemeanor charge against him last month-but Paul is staying the course with his political signs along South First until a deal is done.
The two remaining sticking points, he says, are settling the land dispute and gaining clearance to again post commercial advertising on his billboard.
Paul says he thought the city was going to drop its quiet claim action over the 15-foot wide strip of land. "That's the reason the signs are there," he says. "It shouldn't take much to figure out why the city doesn't want to drop its claim. I think it's what you call saving face."
Kunkler said even with discussions ongoing, the quiet title case remains on the court docket to protect Sunnyside's interests until a deal can be reached.
For his part, Paul is not only willing to take down the political signs, he already has Sunnyside business owners lining up to advertise on his billboard.
"There are business people in town wanting to advertise on my billboard," he says. "The city could end it (the land dispute) tomorrow by admitting they were wrong."