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Limestone, Athens reach agreement in utility dispute

By Bayne Hughes 340-2432

The city of Athens and the Limestone County Water and Sewer Authority finally agreed Monday on which areas each will service, even in the face of growth and annexation.

The two entities divided up Limestone County, with both sides holding onto current territory while agreeing on the other areas that each might serve best.

The Athens City Council also agreed to give the county utility a franchise to operate within the city limits.

Circuit Court Judge Bob Baker must approve the agreement, made as part of court-ordered mediation.

"The logic in the agreement is overwhelming," Authority Manager Tony Sneed said. "We didn't want to get into a situation where the two (utilities) were competing."

The Limestone County Commission approved the agreement Monday morning. In simultaneous meetings later than evening, the Athens City Council and Limestone County Water and Sewer Authority Board approved the agreement.

City Attorney Shane Black said Athens Utilities will now serve some areas outside the city. In exchange, the county utility will serve some areas within the city. Which entity provides service to any area depends on which can more easily do so.

"The main thing is we wanted to make sure that no resident of the city of Athens will be charged any greater than any other county resident," Black said.

Athens will continue its agreement with Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant, while the Limestone County authority will serve the area real estate agents call the "golden triangle," in eastern Limestone County.

Trunk sewer system

The Limestone authority is spending $11 million to bring sewer services to the East Limestone area.

During the next two years, the authority will run a trunk sewer system from the Decatur-Saginaw station, along Limestone Creek and to U.S. 72. The system will have a capacity of about 20,000 customers and handle about 4 million gallons of waste-water.

The authority already provides water for 17,800 customers in the area.

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