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Round 2: Meridian, Marion officials headed back to court

By By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Oct. 22, 2003
Meridian and Marion officials appear headed back to court.
Meridian City Councilmen voted Tuesday to seek legal action against the town of Marion and demand payment of a past-due wastewater treatment bill despite protests from former Meridian Mayor Jimmy Kemp to consider a compromise.
The problems
At issue: A ruling by a Lauderdale County chancery judge earlier this year that allowed Meridian to charge Marion $2.43 per thousand gallons of treated sewage up from 67.7 cents per thousand gallons.
Marion owes the city as much as $60,000 in past-due bills but has recently sent letters to Meridian saying they could not pay and thought the increase was unfair. Meridian councilmen argue that the rate is fair because it's the same price city residents pay; they say state law allows them to charge up to 21⁄2 times as more.
Meridian has been treating Marion's sewage since 1987 when Marion was no longer able to treat its own effectively.
When the court ruled earlier this year that Meridian could charge the $2.43 rate, it ended a two-year battle over the sewage rate.
Behind on its bills
Marion has since fallen behind on its sewer bill. Marion Mayor Malcolm Threatt contends that his system's leaky pipes have allowed rain water to enter the sewer lines, doubling the amount of water Marion sends to Meridian for treatment, and creating huge spikes in the amount of each month's bill.
Threatt says Meridian officials have been less than understanding of the smaller town's situation and claims Meridian is working its way toward annexing the smaller town.
The two have clashed recently in heated annexation battles Meridian winning the most recent skirmish last year when it thwarted Marion's plans to annex parts of north Lauderdale County.
Meridian has since announced plans to annex parts of Lauderdale County surrounding Marion, including the G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery Industrial Park.
Annexation battle
Kemp says he is concerned about the entire area not just Marion. He told councilmen they should reconsider their plans to annex the industrial park.
While councilmen have yet to address their current annexation plans, they did decide against Kemp's recommendations for resolving the sewer issue. Some councilmen said they have no other choice than to go back to court.