Tuesday, January 16, 2001

Water dispute likely to deepen

Hamilton plans to sue Butler Co.

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Butler County commissioners say a settlement between the county and Hamilton officials over a 3-year-old water dispute is in jeopardy, because the city plans a lawsuit accusing the county of breaking a contract.

        Hamilton officials last week authorized their lawyers to prepare a lawsuit against the county after the city learned the county had purchased water from Cincinnati in 1999.

        The county signed a contract in 1989 to buy most of its water from Hamilton until 2021.

        Butler County is appealing a judge's 1999 decision to throw out a lawsuit it filed three years ago against Hamilton, alleging the city overcharged the county. That case is pending.

        City and county officials, who have been trying to negotiate a settlement, were said to be weighing terms suggested by a financial consultant.

        But Butler County Commissioner Courtney Combs predicts the city's latest move could scrap plans for a settlement.

        “This is a continuation of Hamilton's lack of working with the county on issues that have come up,” he said.

        “Unfortunately, this is not a good sign for the amicable settlement of the present litigation and other issues,” Commissioner Charles Furmon said.

        Hamilton Mayor Adolf Olivas, who said he had a cordial meeting last week with Mr. Combs on several topics, said he believed the city is “compelled to bring legal action against (the county) over the newest issue in our ongoing water debate ... I told Corky (Mr. Combs) that their purchase of water from Cincinnati was, in our opinion, a violation of the agreement. He has a different opinion,” Mr. Olivas said. But “we are being advised to take legal action to protect ourselves from our bondholders.”

        James Parrott, director of the county's Department of Environmental Services, said the county purchased water from Cincinnati in 1999 after a Hamilton official told the county that it would be unable to pump the necessary supply of water. County officials maintain this was an emergency purchase, which they say is allowed under the contract.

        Though Butler County buys most of its water from the Hamilton city system, the rapid growth in West Chester, Fairfield and Liberty townships has taxed the city's water capacity.


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