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|04-17-03: Legal cost doesn't deter St. Marys
|By TIMOTHY COX
The Daily Standard
ST. MARYS - City officials show no signs of backing down from a lawsuit
against Auglaize County, despite the spiraling legal costs.
The city filed suit about a year ago after Auglaize County officials
decided to stop paying for ongoing environmental monitoring at the St. Marys landfill.
Since that time, St. Marys officials have taken on the entire expense of the monitoring
and are spending about $15,000 per month in legal fees.
City officials briefly discussed the issue at this week's regular city
Safety-Service Director Mike Weadock said the city must weather the
"We're going to take a short-term beating but it's obvious we're
going to take a long-term beating ... if we don't continue with it," Weadock said.
Other city officials also agreed the city has little choice but to
press forward with the case.
The mandated monitoring programs for water and explosive gases costs
about $100,000 per year. Over the anticipated 30-year required testing period, city
officials believe those costs could exceed $3 million.
County officials stopped paying for the costs when a 12-year contract
with the city expired in December 2000. City officials maintain that the county had made
agreements within the contract that extended beyond the life of the document. County
officials say they have fulfilled their contractual obligation and are no longer bound to
the landfill that stopped accepting waste in 1998.
There has been little court activity in the case lately. Lawyers for
both sides had been researching a settlement, but the docket now appears as if both sides
are heading for a trial.
The additional monitoring costs now being borne by the city can be paid
by the city's solid waste department for a while longer, but a reserve account is
dwindling. The refuse revenue account, which has been tapped to pay for the monitoring
costs, ended 2000 with a balance of $449,342. By comparison, the fund had an $815,055
balance at the end of 1997.
"Financing the groundwater monitoring program previously paid for
by the Auglaize County Solid Waste Management District has continued to cause deficit
spending in our refuse account by approximately $100,000 per year," says the city's
solid waste department annual report for 2002 that was released this month. "Also,
legal fees associated with trying to resolve this issue with the county are having a
significant impact on this fund."
Records show the fund has run a deficit for four of the last five
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