Tuesday, August 21, 2001

Court reverses water suit ruling

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MIDDLETOWN — Butler County has won the latest round in its legal battle with Hamilton over water rates.

        Visiting judges for the 12th District Court of Appeals reversed Monday part of a lower court ruling that had favored Hamilton, and reinstated some of the county's claims the lower court dismissed.

        The court decision pleased the Butler County commissioners, who have contended that the city has been charging the county much more for water than its 1989 contract permits.

        “We've been vindicated,” Commissioner Courtney Combs said. “I would hope this win in appeals court would help all of us work harder toward a settlement that's good for Hamilton and the county.”

        Hamilton Mayor Adolf Olivas expressed disappointment with the court ruling but said he needed to read the decision before commenting in detail.

        “Obviously, we were hoping it would all be over, and the spending of money on the lawsuit would be done,” he said.

        For four years, Butler County has waged a legal fight against Hamilton stemming from a 1989 contract that requires the county to purchase water from Hamilton.

        Butler officials say Hamilton's price for water is so high that the county has been forced to charge its users one of the highest rates in the state.

        The average Butler County water user pays $120 per quarter, while the average residential Hamilton water user pays $58 per quarter.

        Hamilton has defended its practices as legal and fair.

        The appeals court reinstated some county claims against Hamilton that visiting Butler County Common Pleas Judge George Elliott had dismissed.

        Those claims include the dispute over the necessity of the water rate increases to the county and the residual chlorine content in the water purchased from Hamilton.

        The city could challenge the appeals court's decision before the Ohio Supreme Court.

        The county and Hamilton each have spent more than $1 million in legal fees on this case.


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