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story.lead_photo.caption This pile of shingles abandoned off Industrial Harbor Drive at the Port of Little Rock once totaled more than 40,000 cubic yards. - Photo by Noel Oman

The Port of Little Rock has obtained a nearly $2 million judgment against a man who owned a recycling business and abandoned a 10,000-ton mound of asphalt roofing shingles at the port that he said he would recycle.

"The next step is to try to collect" on the judgment, attorney Michael G. Smith of Little Rock told the Little Rock Port Authority board of directors on Wednesday.

Port officials say that collecting any of the money will be a tall order, but, if anything, they have patience. The judgment was obtained on Sept. 27, more than seven years after the port initiated legal proceedings against William C. White and his company, Lars Recycling LLC.

The huge pile of shingles is on 2 acres off Industrial Harbor Drive, which leads to the port authority offices. It started growing 10 years ago after the port entered into an agreement with White to allow his company to have a place to recycle shingles. The original agreement called for annual rent of $8,000.

It didn't take long for port officials to notice something was amiss.

"As time passed, it became apparent that Lars was not engaging in good faith efforts to recycle the shingles, but rather was allowing shingles which were hauled to the site to accumulate, which transformed the site into an unauthorized waste dump," Smith said in a court pleading.

In 2012, the port sent a default letter to White alleging Lars wasn't complying with the terms of the lease, notably "using the leased premises for waste storage and disposal rather then recycling" and "operating its business in a manner which created a public nuisance," among other allegations.

The port, receiving no response, sued in 2012. That case was transferred to federal court. The port sued again in 2016, the litigation that resulted in the $1,939,909.26 judgment from Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce.

The latest lawsuit was delayed when White sought bankruptcy protection in New Jersey, a move that automatically stayed the case.

"Then we had to go to New Jersey and fight that because he wanted to discharge the liability," Bryan Day, the port director, said after Wednesday's meeting. "The judge said, 'No, [White is] responsible.'"

Meanwhile, the port has slowly been removing the shingles. Day estimates the port has removed 10,000 cubic yards over the past three years. The port is accepting proposals from contractors to remove even more.

The case also has sparked changes in the way the port writes its leases to include a clean-up bond or an insurance bond, he said.

Day said it will be difficult to collect the full amount of the judgment, which was twice the estimated cost to remove the shingles. He estimated the port has spent $80,000 in legal fees, but Day said the case was important to pursue if only to put other tenants on notice.

"He created a liability for the port," Day said. "We couldn't just let him walk away."

That is why the effort to obtain the judgment, so long in coming, was so gratifying, he said.

"We feel really good about it," Day said. "We'll never collect $1.9 [million], just to be honest. We'll get something. But more importantly, it shows that if you do business with the port you're going to follow the rules and you're going to play right and you're going to take care of your site."

Business on 10/17/2019

Print Headline: Port of Little Rock wins $2M judgment against man who abandoned 10,000-ton mound of shingles

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