Following a 15-minute executive session called for the reported purpose of discussing a matter of litigation involving the city of Cullman, council members voted Monday night to authorize Mayor Don Green to sign a release agreement in the case of Cullman Industrial Development Board vs. Electrolux Home Products, Inc.

Council members, Green and City Attorney Roy Williams stated they are precluded from further comment about the matter because of a confidentiality agreement between the parties.

Three years after Americold closed its doors for good, the Cullman Industrial Development Board filed suit in Cullman County Circuit Court in February 2005 alleging that not only did Electrolux Home Products, Inc., the parent company, have knowledge that environmental contaminants had been released into the soil and ground water at the Cullman plant over a period of many years, the company also illegally disposed of barrels containing chemicals, solvents and hazardous substances on the property.

Those chemical substances, the lawsuit states, include solvents such as trichloroethane (TCA) and trichloroethene (TCE). One environmental engineering firm which conducted tests at the site in the summer of 2003 on behalf of Dynasty Boats, reported contaminants exceeded allowable levels by more than 1,000 times in soil and ground water samples.

These chemical products have been shown to be toxic to animals when exposed to moderate amounts over a period of time, but local officials say there is no evidence to suggest that the amount of contamination at the Americold facility presents any health risks to humans and therefore area residents have no cause for alarm.

Still, the presence of the contaminants represents a "breach of contract," according to plaintiffs, who allege that the company agreed in writing to return the property to the city "in as good condition as at the commencement of the lease."

Local officials say the contamination has rendered the 69-acre tract "unmarketable," and they are therefore seeking compensation from Electrolux and co-defendants.

The lawsuit seeks judgment against the defendants for compensatory damages in an amount to be determined by a jury. The suit also alleges the parties engaged in a breach of contract, fraud, fraudulent suppression, conspiracy, negligence, wantoness, nuisance and waste.

Americold, which employed approximately 475 people at the time of its closure in March 2002, had been in operation in Cullman since 1964.

In other action Monday, the council:

• Approved a permit request for the second annual Mule Day Parade, which will begin at 10 a.m. on May 6 and follow a parade route from the intersection of King Edward Street and U.S. Highway 31 South and continuing north on Highway 31 to the Cullman Agricultural Trade Center where it will disband.

• Granted permission for the Wal-Mart Supercenter located on Olive Drive Southwest to participate in Wal-Mart's nationwide NASCAR Fan Days promotion. The event is to be coordinated through the city's building department to guarantee building codes and regulations are strictly adhered to.

• Approved a request by Junior Heaton, superintendent of the city's Water and Sewer Department, to purchase a truck for the sewer department from the state bid list. The total price of the truck is estimated at $25,9992, which Heaton says is $2,008 below the amount budgeted for the vehicle.

• Approved a request by Heaton to purchase a truck for the water department from the state bid list. The total price of the truck is estimated at $21,938.66, which is $3,062 below the amount budgeted for the vehicle.

• Approved requests by John Hunt, director of the Cullman City Parks and Recreation Department, to purchase carpet for Heritage Park ($7,499), an all-terrain four-wheeler for Hurricane Creek Park ($5,900), as well as a request to seek bids on additional backstop fencing at Heritage Park.

• Approved a request by City Clerk Lucille Galin to purchase a digital copy machine and office chair, both budgeted items.

• Approved requests by Police Chief Kenny Culpepper to purchase a paper shredder for the jail office ($150), 12-ft. by 14-ft. metal building which will be placed in the aircraft hangar to be utilized as an office space ($1,700), a utility table for the narcotics unit a ($50), a fax machine for the patrol office ($399.99), and mobile printer ($110).

• Approved an amendment to the city budget in the amount of $175,000 to reflect the purchase of a front-end loading garbage truck, monitor and a radio.

• Approved a request by Delwin Kilgo, superintendent of the city's sanitation department, to seek bids for a riding lawnmower. This is a budgeted item.

• Approved a request by Galin to purchase a calculator at a cost of approximately $200. This is not a budgeted item, but funds can be transferred within the same line item to cover the cost, Galin said.

• Approved a request by Jerry Paul, superintendent of the city's wastewater treatment plant, to purchase a plasma cutter for $4,959. This is a budgeted item.

• Approved a request by Chief Culpepper to purchase an office chair for the new animal control officer at a cost of approximately $250. This is a budgeted item.

• Approved a request by Culpepper to purchase a new repeater system and accessories at an estimated coast of $7,100. This is a budgeted item.

• Authorized Delwin Kilgo to lease an approximately 3,500 square feet area in the northeast section of 418 Second Avenue NW for the purpose of storage. The council approved a monthly rental payment of $350 per month for the space, payable to Buchmann Rental of Cullman.

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