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Marion sues over sewage

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
Feb. 1, 2001
True to their word, Marion officials filed suit today against the City of Meridian, seeking an injunction to stop Meridian from imposing "an exorbitant fee" for sewage treatment.
The suit was filed in Lauderdale County Chancery Court, and Goldman said the issue is a simple example of bullying.
In November, the Meridian City Council voted to nearly quadruple the price it charges Marion for treating Marion's sewage, from .67 cents per thousand gallons to $2.43 per thousand gallons. The vote came after a failed attempt by Marion leaders to trade lower rates for permission to cross their city limits with a pipeline connecting NAS Meridian to Meridian's sewage treatment system.
The cheapest routes to connect pipes from Meridian to the Navy base ran through Marion.
Since then, Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith had refused requests for negotiations from Marion Mayor Malcolm Threatt, saying an alternative route to NAS Meridian was already being designed by engineers. Smith said Meridian wouldn't lower its rate increase to treat Marion's sewage.
The rate increase was set to take effect beginning today.
Threatt had threatened legal action following the city council's decision in November, but had yet to follow through with the threat until this morning.
Threatt said Marion didn't want to take legal action, but the city believed it had no recourse.
Meridian officials claim the rate increase is consistent with the prices it is currently charging its own residents for treating their sewage. Marion officials contend a 1986 agreement gives guidelines for how its rate can be set and that Meridian isn't abiding by that agreement.
In the six-page legal filing, Marion alleges Meridian violated the 1986 agreement between the two municipalities with a "unilateral attempt to impose exorbitant fees on the Town of Marion" which would cause "irreparable harm."
Smith and the city council have contended that, according to an Attorney General's opinion, a previous council action cannot legally bind the current council.
Marion is asking the Chancery Court to stop the rate increase and to arbitrate a "fair" rate for Marion to pay until it constructs its own waste water treatment facility. According to the lawsuit, Marion is being forced to consider building a treatment center of its own since Meridian "cannot be trusted to maintain a stable and equitable rate."
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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