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April 26, 2014

AMWA drops money request in lawsuit against city

Athens — The Athens Municipal Water Authority Board announced on Thursday that it is dropping the demand for a monetary judgment in its lawsuit against the City of Athens in a dispute over which entity should be paying certain bills.

AMWA Executive Director Wylie Pirkle said the board voted at a special meeting on Thursday to drop a demand for money based on $4 million in improper charges the Authority contends the city owes the Authority.

“What prompted it was we were in hopes that our last offer to the city would either be accepted or accepted with some minor modifications,” Pirkle said. “We scheduled the meeting in case there was some counter offer we would have to consider.”

Pirkle said the city did not reply to the latest AMWA offer, but sent a letter that didn’t address the AMWA offer, but included its own proposed solution.  At the Thursday meeting, the AMWA board decided to show good faith to the city to try to facilitate an agreement.

“We never wanted the $4 million,” Pirkle said. “We never really wanted to put that burden on the taxpayer. We put that in the lawsuit, just like anybody would, because we wanted everybody to know that’s how much money we felt the city had taken from the Water Authority over the last 10 years time.”

With the monetary demand dropped, the case boils down to who should pay certain bills, Pirkle said.

City Administrator Pam Burton said the city had not been officially notified of AMWA’s Thursday afternoon action, although it was unofficially announced by AMWA Board President Ed Gatlin at a political forum at the Cain Center on Thursday night.

“Because this is in mediation. There’s a little bit more too it than just announcing you did it,” Burton said. “We haven’t received anything in writing.”

AMWA filed the suit in 173rd District Court after the city and authority could not agree on who has to pay which bills for the operation and maintenance of Lake Athens, water treatment and transportation facilities.

AMWA contends in the document that the suit was filed for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, negligent misrepresentation and fraud.

The AMWA suit alleges that the type of charges the city did not pay includes, costs for electricity, maintenance for the water treatment plant, maintenance to the dam and spillway, costs of chemicals to add to the water; and costs to remove sludge from the tanks at the water treatment plant.

The case is currently in the 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler and both parties have been in mediation ordered by the court.

Pirkle said, although early voting begins Monday on the election to dissolve AMWA, the city can cancel the election anytime up to the May 10 election day.  

 

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