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Marion's town attorney wants compromise in sewage squabble

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
Dec. 6, 2000
Marion town attorney Tom Goldman says he wants an ongoing dispute over sewage between his town and Meridian treated with an open mind and is urging negotiation instead of litigation.
Goldman's suggestion comes one week after Marion Mayor Malcolm Threatt threatened to sue the Meridian City Council over its decision to quadruple the cost of treating Marion's sewage.
Meridian has been treating Marion's sewage for 67 cents per thousand gallons, while Meridian residents pay $2.43 per thousand gallons.
Meridian city leaders said the increase is warranted because that's what it costs the city to treat the sewage. Marion leaders claim they have an existing arrangement with Meridian to treat the sewage at the same rate for several more years.
Marion aldermen tried to use a much-anticipated project to connect NAS Meridian to Meridian's sewage system as a bargaining chip last week to force Meridian to keep its rates low.
The cheapest route to connect pipes from Meridian to the Navy base runs through Marion; officials there said they would allow the pipes to cut through Marion if the Meridian City Council did not raise sewage treatment rates.
The Meridian City Council's response was unanimous. They voted to increase Marion's sewage rates and bypass the town. The extra time and additional pipe is expected to cost Meridian another $200,000.
According to Threatt, the idea of legal action hasn't been discussed further with the aldermen as of yet.
Meridian leaders say an attorney general's opinion gives them the right to terminate the agreement with Marion because it states that a previous city council decision or agreement can't bind an existing council.
Goldman said he hopes to avoid legal confrontation, but believes the law is on Marion's side.
Goldman said he believes since the attorney general's office approved the original interlocal agreement between the two municipalities for sewage treatment, then it must be legally binding.
Mayor John Robert Smith was out of town and unavailable for comment Tuesday. He said last week that Meridian is being more than fair to Marion because a current city ordinance makes it clear that anyone outside the city limits is to be charged double what city residents pay.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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