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Limestone water suit back in court after settlement

By Holly Hollman
hhollman@decaturdaily.com 340-2445

ATHENS — City leaders said a lawsuit they settled with the county apparently isn't over.

In January 2006, the Limestone County Water and Sewer Authority sued Athens, claiming the city was raiding its customer base, particularly to the east, where most of the county's growth is occurring.

The suit went into mediation, and both parties reached a settlement in December. In January, Circuit Court Judge Bob Baker approved the agreement.

Mayor Dan Williams said Friday that the authority has gone back to court seeking changes in the agreement. Williams and city Water/Wastewater Manager John Stockton said the authority doesn't agree with the settlement's intent.

The settlement included an outline of the city's service area that doesn't always correspond to the city limits. Anything the authority owned in the city's service area was to revert to the city and vice versa.

Stockton said the authority is contesting four areas on Newby, Oakdale, Nick Davis and Sewell roads, which are on the outer edges of the city's service area.

Stockton said those lines fall in the city's service area, but the majority of customers on the line are in the authority's service area.

In one case, the city has one customer while the authority 13 customers. If the authority wants to keep those customers, it must run a new line at its expense.

"We're in that same spot in other areas where we will have to build lines to our customers," Stockton said.

Williams said the city will have to file a reply to the authority, and Baker will schedule a hearing.

City Councilman Ronnie Marks said the "ink is barely dry" on the agreement, and he didn't see how the county can backtrack now.

"Did they not read what they were signing?" Councilman Johnny Crutcher asked.

Authority Manager Tony Sneed said customers actually are not the issue for the authority because the authority could serve them from other lines. Sneed said the four lines are transmission lines for the authority to move water across the county. He said it wasn't the authority's intent to give up transmission lines.

"Rather than argue over this, we thought it would be better to just let the judge decide," Sneed said. "We're doing what we think is best for the county, and they're just doing what they think is best for the city."

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