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Crime & Courts

Trial date set for December for Material Service Corp.'s lawsuit against La Grange

LA GRANGE – A new trial date has been set in a lawsuit filed against the village of La Grange over a major flood control project.

In July 2016, Material Service Corp., a subsidiary of Lehigh Hanson, filed suit against the village in Cook County Circuit Court in an effort to halt construction of a pipeline that would drain into Federal Quarry, which is owned by the Texas-based company.

A trial date had been set for June 26, but that date was postponed because of a medical-related issue with one of the village's attorneys, La Grange Village President Tom Livingston said.

A new trial date has been set for Dec. 11, said Jeff Sieg, director of corporate communications for Lehigh Hanson. Discovery in the case, which is before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Neil H. Cohen, has been completed, according to both Livingston and a statement sent to Suburban Life by Lehigh Hanson.

"We're going to need some help here [from the judge] because that's a long time," Livingston said. "So we fear the higher costs and the risks to the village. We're going to clearly be looking for opportunities to start [the trial] sooner. It's a turn of events that was not in any range of what we thought it would be."

The village planned to construct a 54-inch storm sewer stretching from Brainard Street and running beneath 50th Street to the quarry and then to McCook Ditch. The impetus for the project came from severe flooding experienced by village residents, particularly those living south of 47th Street, in 2011 and 2014, Livingston previously told Suburban Life.

Construction on the project has been delayed by the suit, he said. He wrote in a statement posted on the village website that absent the lawsuit, the project would have been 50-percent completed by now.

A statement sent by Lehigh Hanson to Suburban Life in January stated the company filed the lawsuit because the pipeline "would increase the volume of water to a level that cannot be handled by the quarry and neighboring McCook Ditch."

The company also claimed it had tried to reach a mutually agreeable solution with the village but was left with no choice but to sue after village trustees authorized construction.

Livingston previously told Suburban Life the company requested $7 million to allow the additional water to pass through shortly before it filed suit.

Village representatives met this spring with Lehigh Hanson representatives during three meetings mediated by Cook County commissioner Jeff Tobolski in an attempt to hammer out a settlement agreement, Livingston said. No agreement was reached.

Livingston said he's limited in what he can discuss publicly about the meetings because Lehigh Hanson requested village representatives sign confidentiality agreements.

"Every solution we've suggested makes a great deal of sense for both the quarry and the village, and we intend to make that case [in court]," Livingston said. "Every option suggested by [Lehigh Hanson] has been prohibitively expensive."

He said there still may be an opportunity to settle with the company and avoid a trial.

In a statement sent to Suburban Life, Lehigh Hanson maintains the company has been interested from the start in a solution that balances both its interests and those of the village.

"The company is still committed to working toward such a solution. Confidentiality restrictions governing the parties’ settlement discussions, however, prevent us from commenting on the status of those discussions," the statement reads.

The company declined to offer any further comment, citing the active litigation.

Livingston said trustees approved a $10 million bid for the project, but it's unknown how much it will cost if and when the village is able to go out to bid again. The funding for the project comes from proceeds generated by an April 2015 village referendum measure.

Livingston described the pipeline project as "among the highest priorities for the village."

He said he believes the village is being reasonable, and he looks forward to its day in court.

"We will do everything in our power to continue the construction of the pipe and take any legal means to get a shovel in the ground," Livingston said.  

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