Federal judge throws out resort owner's lawsuit

Posted: Tuesday, April 29, 2008

FAIRBANKS - A federal judge has dismissed a $1 million lawsuit filed against the federal government by a resort owner.

Robert Miller, owner of the Arctic Circle Hot Springs Resort near Central, says firefighters trashed his property in 2004.

Miller says the problem occurred four years ago while hundreds of firefighters stayed for weeks at the complex while battling a huge wildfire.

Miller's attorney argued the crews left the resort in shambles. He says the government signed rental contracts with a caretaker who received more than $100,000, but Miller says he saw none of that money.

Checks from the government to the caretaker, who has since left Alaska, were mailed to the caretaker's home and not the resort, Cook said.

District Judge John Sedwick dismissed the case. Federal attorneys argued that Miller's lawsuit was filed too late and in the wrong court.

Miller's attorney, Galen Cook, said he is considering refiling the case in claims court.

"My client can't sell that property right now because the value has been substantially diminished by the government's use," Cook said Thursday. "That is a travesty of justice in my opinion."

Cook said Miller was unaware of the extent to which the federal Bureau of Land Management and caretaker Larry Rogers had agreed to let the resort become a headquarters for up to 600 firefighters in the summer of 2004.

Cook wrote in court papers that Miller also has other investments and had hired caretakers to manage the resort, where business had slowed considerably, in recent years.

Cook said the resort's plumbing, pool, buildings and bathrooms were damaged.

He said the $1 million claim was an estimate of the damage, not a figure from a professional appraiser.

The resort is about 125 miles northeast of Fairbanks, near the Steese Highway.

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