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Meridian officials confident of court victory

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
Feb. 2, 2001
Meridian city officials are looking forward to a resolution in Lauderdale County Chancery Court after the Town of Marion filed suit Thursday over an ongoing sewage debate.
Meridian and Marion officials have been battling for months over a large increase Meridian is demanding Marion pay for sewage treatment.
In November, the Meridian City Council voted to nearly quadruple the price it charges Marion for sewage treatment, from .67 cents per thousand gallons to $2.43 per thousand gallons.
In its suit, Marion alleges Meridian's actions in November broke a 1986 agreement between the two municipalities with a "unilateral attempt to impose exorbitant fees on the Town of Marion" which would cause "irreparable harm."
In the suit Marion is requesting an injunction to stop Meridian from imposing the rate hike and for the court to set a "fair" price for services until Marion can build its own waste water treatment plant.
Meridian city leaders claim an action by a previous city council cannot legally bind a current council to the agreement.
The vote to increase the sewage rates came after Marion failed 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. However, since that time Meridian has selected an alternative route, bypassing Marion.
Marion officials have alleged that Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith has been unwilling to negotiate with them on sewage dispute since the debate began months ago. Smith has repeatedly stated the matter was closed and he wouldn't consider lowering Marion's rates.
Smith was reported out of town Thursday and could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, most city officials are remaining tight-lipped on the issue. Ward 5 City Councilman Bobby Smith said Marion's actions are "unfortunate."
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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