Deadline for sinkhole buyout talks extended
BAYOU CORNE, La. (AP) — Nearly half of the eligible residents and families directly affected by a sinkhole induced by a Texas Brine Co. salt dome failure last summer have agreed to company buyouts, while the rest have more than a month to complete negotiations.
Texas Brine faced a Monday court-imposed deadline to settle with residents who had not sued the company. Texas Brine spokesman Sonny Cranch says U.S. District Judge Jay C. Zainey on Tuesday extended that deadline until July 31.
Branch says the company had been negotiating settlements with 103 property owners. He says there were legitimate settlement talks with 92 of them, including 44 who accepted buyouts. Cranch says 41 other property owners say they want to continue direct negotiations, and will get that chance with Zainey's ruling.
Approximately 150 residents owned property in the evacuation area. The remaining almost 50 people were not eligible for buyouts either because they have sued Texas Brine or they chose not to participate in settlement discussions, Cranch said.
Although 44 agreements were signed by Monday, Cranch said no money has changed hands and residents are looking at another 30 to 45 days before the process is finalized.
In the meantime, those residents will continue to receive $875 weekly housing assistance checks as they have since shortly after the now-22.4-acre sinkhole formed on Aug. 3 in Assumption Parish.
Texas Brine officials said last week they had paid out $5.5 million in assistance checks, an average of more than $40,000 per residence.
Cranch said Tuesday he expects the weekly checks to continue "for the foreseeable future."