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04-17-03: Legal cost doesn't deter St. Marys
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 council meeting.
    Safety-Service Director Mike Weadock said the city must weather the financial storm.
    "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 years.


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