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Marion asks for new negotiations in dispute over sewage rates

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
Dec. 21, 2000
An olive branch extended by Marion officials in a disagreement over sewage rates seems to have been rejected by Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith.
Marion Mayor Malcolm Threatt sent Smith a letter on Wednesday, asking that negotiations continue between the two cities regarding Marion's recent sewage rate increases.
Threatt said Wednesday night he is not pleased with Smith's remarks.
More than two weeks ago Threatt said town officials might consider legal action after the Meridian City Council voted to more than quadruple Marion's sewage treatment rates from 67 cents per thousand gallons to $2.43.
Marion officials claim they have an agreement with Meridian to treat its sewage at the 67-cent price for several more years and the agreement is legally binding. The agreement began in 1986.
Meridian officials claim the increase is warranted because it reflects what it actually costs to treat the sewage, and that an attorney general's opinion clearly states the actions of a previous council do not bind a current one.
Marion leaders tried to use a much-anticipated project to connect Naval Air Station Meridian to Meridian's sewage system as a bargaining chip to force Meridian to keep its rates low. The cheapest routes to connect pipes from Meridian to the Navy base run through Marion, but Mayor John Robert Smith indicated the town's aldermen were holding the base project as their ace, only allowing the pipes to be run if the rates didn't go up.
During Smith's press conference he indicated that manpower and money were already being spent on the new pipe route and that in order to qualify for a state grant funding some of the work, city officials had to make a decision by Dec. 1.
Smith did confirm that the City of Meridian has yet to receive any sort of legal paperwork from Marion regarding a lawsuit.
Threatt said he wants to work out a new sewage arrangement and he said he is hopeful something can be done.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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