Settlement offers preceded gas company conference

Court documents show Michael Stark and Summit Natural Gas made several settlement offers to each other before the Tuesday conference pictured here.

Documents show a lake-area homeowner and Summit Natural Gas made several settlement offers to each other over a misplaced gas line but never acted on them.

In a filing just ahead of Tuesday's conference with Michael Stark, Summit admitted its contractors entered Stark's property "under the mistaken belief that (Summit) had the right and authority to do so." Stark asked for $15,000 in resititution on July 18, 2013, shortly after discovering the pipeline being buried on his property. Summit responded with an offer of $2,000, later raising it to $8,000.

On August 1, Stark asked $9,500 for an easement and $10,000 for trespass settlements. Stark told KRCG 13 Wednesday he had to raise his offer later after heavy rains washed the roadway out. Around that time, he discovered a trespassing case against Mediacom in which the complaintants had been awarded almost $43,900 including $35,000 in punitive damages. Court documents show that case was similar to his but did not involve property damage.

Stark said he increased his request to include punitive damages in the settlement amount "because, first of all, the aggravation that I went through, and second of all, because I was entitled to it."

Later in August, Stark increased his offer to $25,000, subsequently reducing it to $23,000. Court filings show neither Stark nor Summit have made any offers since mid-September.

Stark said he has not had the damage to his road assessed professionally, but he said any settlement would need to include charges for trespassing and punitive damages in addition to the road repairs. He said he is asking $10,000 in trespassing charges, or $10 per foot of the 1000-foot gas line that was buried, and he estimates road repairs at about $5,000. He said he will have the damage assessed professionally when his civil suit gets its day in court.

"They didn't have a legitimate basis to be here, they looked over the purple markings at both ends of the road, and then they continued to work after I told them that they shouldn't be here," he said.

Officials for Summit Natural Gas said they would not comment on the story since it involves litigation.