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April 5, 2014

Restoring unity in Athens

LAPOA passes resolution hoping to unite City, AMWA before May 10 election

Athens — The Lake Athens Property Owners Association Board of Directors is concerned about the future of Athens, especially the city’s water supply.

The association recently held a public forum between the City of Athens and the Athens Municipal Water Authority to inform the public on the views of each party before the May 10 election.

The meeting featured about 90 minutes of questions and answers. The participants were AMWA Executive Director Wylie Pirkle and City Councilman Aubrey Jones.

The citizens will decide in a special election on May 10, whether to abolish the AMWA. AMWA filed a suit on Dec. 10, claiming the city had wrongfully charged the AMWA with bills the municipality had been obligated to pay.

The Lake Athens Property Owners Association Board of Directors hopes the May 10 election is not needed as the organization is urging the two sides to work out an agreement before voters head to the polls.

“When the Lake Athens Property Owners Association Board of Directors became aware of the conflict between AMWA and the City of Athens, we began trying to determine the facts so we could formulate what, in our opinion, would be the best outcome for the Athens community,” Board President Todd Garrett said. “Our work culminated with initiating and hosting a debate between AMWA and the City of Athens which occurred on March 29.”

Members of the LAPOA Board are Garrett, Jane Nettune, Dorian Reeder, Karen Mondini, Geri Moran, Elaine Schaller and Sam Whitten.

Together, the board carefully crafted their thoughts to the city and AMWA as part of a resolution.

“Based on all of our discovery, we offer the following thoughts in support of our final resolution,” the letter reads.

“1. This conflict is very disruptive to the unity of our community, and is damaging relationships throughout.

“2. This conflict has the potential to be very costly for the taxpayers.

“3. Prior to the current conflict, the City and AMWA had maintained a good working relationship, beneficial to all, for over 50 years.

“4. Athens, relative to many other Texas cities, has excellent water resources and water potential for the next several generations largely due to the forethought, fiscal responsibility, and singular focus of an independent water authority.

“5. Both parties agree that the present dispute centers on whether certain bills should be paid by the City of Athens or by AMWA, as defined by the current contract between the parties.

“6. Since both entities exist to serve the same constituents and both rely on the taxes and fees paid by these constituents, we believe both entities have the responsibility to renegotiate a contract that is in the best interest of the community they serve. If the present dispute is due to an error in the contract wherein the costs of providing water, and the revenue from taxation and sale of water, are not properly allocated, it should be resolved through negotiations, since everyone involved is on the same team.

“7. We believe that there is value to having an independent water authority. We should be very careful about abolishing the current water authority as the decision may be irreversible.”

Resolution:

Based on the seven points, the LAPOA Board of Directors has passed the following resolution:

“WHEREAS, the current conflict between AMWA and the City of Athens is damaging the unity of the Athens community,

“WHEREAS, the lawsuit filed by AMWA could potentially result in a significant expenditure of taxpayers’ money for litigation,

“WHEREAS, we believe that the current AMWA/City of Athens contract could be renegotiated to fairly allocate the expenses and revenue of water operations and future capital needs,

“WHEREAS, there is concern in the Athens community about the potential sale of water by either the City of Athens or AMWA to other users,

“NOW THEREFORE,

“BE IT RESOLVED that the LAPOA Board of Directors exhorts AMWA to drop their lawsuit against the City of Athens,

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the LAPOA Board of Directors exhorts the City of Athens to rescind their decision to abolish AMWA,

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the LAPOA Board of Directors exhorts both sides to forgive past grievances, and establish a new contract that fairly allocates all responsibilities, expenses, capital needs, taxes, fees, and water rates for a healthy AMWA and a healthy City of Athens,

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the LAPOA Board of Directors exhorts AMWA and the City of Athens to establish a policy wherein neither would sell water from Lake Athens or the Well Farm to any other municipalities or other users that do not directly increase economic benefit to the Athens community,

“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the LAPOA Board of Directors is willing to help in any way possible to facilitate the resolution of this conflict.”

The hope of the LAPOA is that this resolution will be “the first step in restoring the unity of our community, in preserving hard earned taxpayer money, in providing a framework for an ongoing healthy relationship between AMWA and the City of Athens, and in protecting our valuable water supply.”

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