Jensen, city settle longtime dispute


Stemming from 2006 airport eviction attempt

by: HOLLY M. GILL - Paul JensenMore than seven years after the city of Madras notified aerial applicator Paul Jensen of its intent to evict him from his leased property at the Madras airport, the two parties reached a settlement July 23.

Following mediation at a law office in Bend, John Berge, of the law firm Bryant, Lovlien and Jarvis, who represented the city, met with the Madras City Council and city officials in an executive session to discuss the settlement agreement.

Neither city officials nor Jensen — contacted later — would disclose the terms of the agreement, due to a confidentiality agreement.

"The details of the settlement are confidential," said City Administrator Gus Burril, who headed up the city's Public Works Department when the city informed Jensen in March 2006 that he needed to vacate the property he had leased since 1978.

Initially, Jensen and a partner operated Agri-Aviation, an aerial crop-dusting business, on 1.54 acres for $75 per month. In previous interviews, Jensen explained that the rent was low because the business was expected to make expensive improvements. The business invested about $175,000 in putting in a septic tank, constructing a hangar, and grading, paving and fencing the property, as required by the city.

In 1984, Jensen became the sole owner of the Madras portion of Agri-Aviation, which he renamed Precision Applications. He continued to renew the lease at five-year intervals until 1998, when the city changed the language in the lease and increased the rent to $150 per month.

Although he was often late with his winter rent, when Jensen went in to city hall to pay in March 2006, the city refused to take the check, and gave him notice that he was to vacate the property. Jensen refused to vacate, and the city cut off sewer to the property on May 16, 2006, which shut down his business activities for the spray season.

Jensen appealed the eviction to a Circuit Court jury, which ruled in his favor in December 2006, saying that Jensen's lease gave him unlimited renewal options, and restored his original payment of $75 per month, which meant that he had never been in arrears on his monthly payment.

The city appealed that ruling to the Oregon Court of Appeals, which affirmed the lower court's ruling without opinion in June 2008.

In a complaint filed in the Jefferson County Circuit Court on July 26, 2011, Jensen claimed the city had breached his contract and wrongfully used a civil proceeding.

Attorneys for Jensen and the city of Madras each asked for a summary judgment — essentially a decision without a trial — in the Jefferson County Circuit Court in February 2012. More than a year later, Judge Annette Hillman denied the motions and a pretrial conference was set.

Jensen's attorney, Roger Hennagin, filed a motion "asking the court to prohibit the city from arguing at trial that Paul Jensen had breached his lease agreement with the city."

The city then asked Jensen to participate in mediation, to which he agreed, since a trial and appeal could have delayed payment for two or three years, Hennagin said.

Asked if he was relieved that the lawsuit had been settled, Jensen said, "Let's face it, this thing has dragged on for almost eight years. I've got a lot of work to do to put my life back together."

He declined comment on the settlement, noting, "It is over with, and that's all I'm going to say."