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— Benton County lost its motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by TNT Dirtworks seeking $1.4 million for work the company performed during January's ice storm.

"It's a win. It is a good win," Todd Lewis, the attorney for TNT Dirtworks, said following Special Judge Mike Medlock's ruling to deny the county's motion on Friday morning.

County Judge Dave Bisbee said he would have preferred Medlock rule in favor of the county's motion, although he believes it's a good thing the complete case will be heard.

The county filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit saying Circuit Court, where the original lawsuit was filed, lacked jurisdiction.

According to the county's motion, Benton County Court had exclusive original jurisdiction and the case should have been brought before Bisbee before proceeding to Circuit Court.

Medlock also set a time line for the case, which will go to trial on May 3, 2010.

"In May, we will find out how it shakes out," Bisbee said.

Benton County will have 20 days to file an answer to TNT Dirtworks' complaint with discovery in the case due Jan. 4, 2010, and all motions completed by Feb. 4, 2010.

TNT Dirtworks filed suit against the county for $1.4 million for cleanup work it performed after January's ice storm.

After two weeks of work, Bisbee renegotiated the terms of the contract under which four contractors, including TNT Dirtworks, went to work clearing and hauling debris after discovering how much money was at stake.

Three of the contractors agreed to work at the reduced rate of $4,500 per day per single truck and crew. TNT Dirtworks did not agree to the new terms and was terminated.

Since TNT's termination, Benton County has paid it $700,000 for debris hauled to dump sites and has issued a check for $324,000, an amount equivalent to the price of $4,500 per day per single truck and crew.

According to county comptroller Richard McComas, the check for $324,000 has not been cashed by TNT Dirtworks.

News, Pages 10 on 09/09/2009

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