CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

January 24, 2011

Mediation will not bring settlement

By Dennis Haynes
The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — Mediation will not lead to a settlement of the lawsuits that resulted from the county commission’s actions of April 27, 2010. When the first day of Supreme Court ordered mediation ended on Dec. 6, 2010, I was hopeful that mediation would be successful. Late in the day the question of fairness in the water purchase agreement was raised. The mediating attorney, Phil Adams, stated that any examination of the contract and its application would be on a “going forward” basis. No consideration of past overcharges by the city would be heard. Since the county and the South Cumberland Cooperative District would have the same financial interest in the fair application of the contract, it is interesting that the city’s interests were being guarded even though the city has remained aloof during the litigation.

The fact remains that the rural water systems are paying 70 percent of the operational costs of the city’s retail water department. Based on the audits, it appears that the rural water departments paid $756,142 of the cost of operation of the city’s retail water department. Over a five-year period that would approach $3.8 million. Why do our county commissioners allow this unfair burden on the county water customers who are their constituents? This is patently unfair. Unless the city chooses to involve itself in the mediation process, the Supreme Court will decide if the SCCD will exist.

The May 2000 contract between the county and the city is unfair on several points. The contract of November 2010 is infinitely more unfair as it has provision for funding the construction of a reservoir with no limit on the cost of the construction. The reservoir will be paid for by the customers of the rural water systems and will be owned by the city’s utility board. This reservoir will increase the utility board’s raw water availability to 56 million gallons per day. The water treatment plant has a capacity to treat 24 million gallons per day and Mayor Townson has stated that no upgrades will be needed at the water treatment plant for 20 years. Our collective average daily use of water (city and county) is less than 11 million gallons per day and trending downward.

The water purchase agreement of November 2010 will provide five times more water than we currently need for a debt of $1,000 for every man, woman and child that drinks or flushes city water. The debt will be serviced over 30 years and will increase the wholesale price of water by more than 50 percent. Woe to you if you are a chicken farmer. Your water consumption will doom you. This is your future. If it changes, it is up to you.

Dennis Haynes

South Cumberland Cooperative District