City files lawsuit over 1988 road agreement, funds

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR — Believing that the city and its tax increment finance authority have long overpaid Wayne County for a road project started more than 25 years ago, city officials filed a lawsuit earlier this month worth up to $41 million.

Mayor Rick Sollars said in a statement accompanying the lawsuit — filed in Wayne County Circuit Court June 3 — that in spite of repeated efforts over the years by the city and TIFA, “significant money” continues to be paid because of an agreement made in 1988.

At the time, the Northline Road agreement projected a $7 million repaving and widening project that would make Northline a key artery for Downriver traffic. Taylor was the only city to participate in the project, the area of which also included Romulus and Southgate.

That agreement called for monthly payments, which Taylor and TIFA has continued to make. The “overview” of the lawsuit as filed presented the city’s argument:

“In simple terms, the County of Wayne entered into an agreement with the city of Taylor which, to date, took over Forty-One million dollars of funds belonging to the Tax Increment Finance Authority … and gave those funds to the county.”

As an entity, TIFA had not entered into the agreement yet remains bound by its terms. Sollars said in a statement that previous efforts to settle the matter were rejected if not ignored by the county.

“Our city and our tax increment finance authority both tried to amicably resolve this matter,” Sollars said. “Regrettably, the county refused to discuss any resolution whatsoever.”

Sollars declined to answer further questions, and said in his statement that city attorneys had requested — once the lawsuit was filed — that officials not comment on the matter.

The lawsuit, Sollars said, aims to both “recover significant money which the county improperly obtained, and to stop Wayne County from taking even more money away which should be going to benefit (Taylor) residents.”

According to court documents, the county has exceeded its authority to collect TIFA funds. The city hopes to stop any further payments — about $2 million annually — and to be reimbursed for payments made over and above the initial cost of the project. As of the filing date the amount paid by the city to Wayne County is more than six times the original cost.

Several attempts have been made to bring the agreement and payments to an end.

“The city of Taylor has repeatedly requested that the county terminate the Northline Road agreement,” the lawsuit explains. “The county continues to refuse to terminate the (agreement).”

County officials reportedly maintained that the agreement was legally binding, and that a complete answer would be filed in court. No dates have yet been given for the lawsuit to be heard.

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)

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