Court Lifts Restraining Order on Stinger Cranes

By Beacon Staff

A judge lifted a restraining order against Stinger Welding on Dec. 13, enabling the embattled company to remove six cranes from the Kootenai Business Park in Libby. The industrial cranes have been at the center of a dispute between the Lincoln County Port Authority and Stinger, the bridge building company that went bankrupt and closed its Libby shop in 2013.

Lake County District Court Judge James Manley dissolved a temporary restraining order that was preventing Stinger from entering the property and removing six cranes, according to news reports. The port authority cried foul in October when Stinger trucked away a 25-ton crane valued at $183,000. After the incident, the port authority filed a restraining order and stated in court documents that because the cranes, together valued at over $1 million, were purchased with government grants the equipment belonged to the county.

Once the restraining order was lifted, Stinger posted a $1.4 million bond to the court and prepared to remove the cranes soon after. The company said the cranes are needed for projects in its home state of Arizona. Representatives of the port authority had little to say on the matter, other than a brief statement from attorney Allan Payne.

“The Port Authority hopes the bond posted by Stinger will cover the costs and make the port whole again once the ownership of the cranes is determined,” he said.

Although the restraining order has been lifted and the cranes can be removed, the ownership of the equipment is still in dispute. Payne said he is unsure when that issue will be resolved in court.

Legal disputes are nothing new between Stinger and Lincoln County. In 2009, the two signed a development agreement to bring a bridge beam building facility to Libby that would eventually employ more than 200 people. But problems arose almost immediately.

Part of the agreement stated that Stinger would construct a large welding facility on the old Stimson Lumber Co. site and, once complete, the port authority would purchase it at the cost of construction and lease it back. However, Stinger failed to obtain the funding for the facility’s construction and in July 2009, the county provided a $3.4 million grant to the company to start the project. Payne said at that point, the port authority still planned on purchasing the facility from Stinger, minus the $3.4 million.

Stinger completed the building in May 2011. In hopes of repaying loans, Stinger sought funding through the New Market Tax Credits program. During that process, according to the lawsuit, Stinger allegedly misled the port authority by claiming it needed the title to the property it occupied. On July 18, 2011, the port authority conveyed the title to Stinger for $186,000.

A year later, in October 2012, the Lincoln County Port Authority filed a lawsuit alleging that Stinger failed to comply with the 2009 development agreement and that the building belonged to the county. Then on Dec. 18, 2012, Stinger Welding CEO Carl Douglas died in a plane crash near Libby. The company went into bankruptcy soon after and it closed its Libby bridge building facility in 2013.

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