Monday, October 08, 2001

Hamilton to skip water meeting


Butler Co. still plans to discuss issue

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Although Hamilton has declined to participate, Butler County still plans to hold a public meeting tonight to explain its position in its 4-year-old water-rate dispute with Hamilton.

        County officials had hoped the 6:30 p.m. meeting at the Government Services Center in Hamilton would provide a forum for discussion that might result in an agreement between the city and the county.

        The city and the county each have spent more than $1 million in legal fees in their court battles over water.

        Hamilton officials have informed county officials that they will not participate in public discussions about this issue.

        Hamilton filed an appeal last week to the Ohio Supreme Court concerning part of an August decision by the 12th District Court of Appeals that favored the county. City officials have been advised by attorneys not to discuss publicly the water issue.

        “That's not the way to handle litigation,” Mayor Adolf Olivas said. “I really feel this was
an attempt to cast Hamilton City Council in a bad light and to politicize the issue.”

        The water dispute stems from a 1989 contract that requires the county to pur chase water from Hamilton. The county contends that Hamilton is overcharging the county, causing county water users' rates to be among the highest in the state.

        The city says the contract and its practices are legal and fair.

        The county had arranged today's hearing to give each side equal time to present their positions. The commissioners said they had hoped a mutual understanding would take root and evolve into an out-of-court settlement.

        “It would have been beneficial to sit down and talk,” Commissioner Courtney Combs said.

        He said he hopes thatthose challenging for a Hamilton City Council seat in the November election will attend today's meeting to hear the county's position.

        Mr. Olivas said city officials will continue to have private discussions with county officials in an attempt to settle the issue.

       



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