5 On Your Side

Written Agreement Fails To Yield Any Results For Sanford Woman

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Linda Cole
SANFORD, N.C. — One of the first questions Five On Your Side asks people when they have a complaint is "What do you have in writing?" Documentation is crucial because so-called verbal agreements can be up for interpretation, and there is no way to prove what was said, but a written agreement did not help one woman.

Linda Cole does not hold back when she talks about the big rocks that line a creek bed along the front of her house. They are officially called rip rap, and the city of Sanford put them in as part of a sewer project.

"It's ugly. It's not the pretty stream it used to be," she said.

Cole is so upset because she agreed to give the city an easement for the sewer line in 1999 in exchange for a written promise that the city would replace the existing wooden retaining wall. A city engineer followed up with another letter, saying the wall will be "removed during construction" then "rebuilt." He even included a drawing.

"We asked for it in writing because I didn't believe them," Cole said.

Cole said when the project was just about complete, the contractor asked if he could put the rocks down while he finished another part of the project.

"It was supposed to be temporary. That was always the agreement. It was temporary because they were behind schedule," she said.

However, the contractor did not come back to remove the rip rap or rebuild the wall. Cole said she now has an eroding yard and unwanted wildlife.

"The rocks have made a beautiful nesting ground for copperheads," she said.

"The rip rap needs to stay for their protection as well as the integrity of the sewer line," Sanford City Manager Leonard Barefoot said.

Barefoot said he was not part of the original written agreement and does not care about it. He claims the Coles have since verbally agreed to make the rocks permanent. Barefoot said he is not budging and neither are the rocks.

"The situation changed, and it became necessary to put the rip rap in lieu of the retaining wall and was agreed upon by all three parties," he said.

The Coles said that is simply not true.

"There's nothing we've been able to do that will make them do what they say they were going to do," Coles said.

Back in October, Barefoot offered the Coles $2,000 for what he referred to as a "decorative edge" to resolve the issue. The Coles said that will not solve the problem because the rocks will still be there.

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