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The Daily



07-29-03: St. Marys landfill: Legal battle continues
The Daily Standard
    ST. MARYS - City council members approved another infusion of cash to keep up the ongoing lawsuit against Auglaize County in a dispute over which jurisdiction should pay environmental monitoring costs at the city's landfill.
    Council members approved an emergency ordinance to appropriate $35,000 in general fund money to the landfill closure fund to pay expected legal fees during the next couple of months. Legal costs for the lawsuit, which was filed in May 2002, are running about $15,000 per month, Safety-Service Director Mike Weadock said. The city has spent more than $200,000 so far on its legal team.
    The city is represented by the Columbus firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease.
    The county is represented by the Toledo law firm Eastman & Smith. It could not be immediately determined this morning how much the county has spent defending the lawsuit.
    As the cost to taxpayers mounts, a trial date has not even been set. Preliminary arguments and motions in the case recently ended with the court rejecting a county request to dismiss the case. A hearing is scheduled for next month to set the timetable for further discovery and to establish a trial date.
    St. Marys city residents are paying on both sides of the lawsuit as residents of both the city and the county.
    The dispute centers around which government entity should pay for long-term water quality and explosive gas monitoring at the city landfill.
    The mandated monitoring programs cost about $100,000 per year. During 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.
    The latest influx of cash to pay legal costs will probably only carry the case another couple of months, "then I'll be back to you," Weadock told council members.
    Also Monday, council members passed an emergency resolution to move forward with an estimated $500,000 street construction project that city officials hope will alleviate some stormwater drainage problems in the area. The project calls for a complete reconstruction of the road surface, installation of a new water line and new curb, gutter and sidewalks on Webb Street between the railroad tracks and South Street and on South Street between Webb and Perry streets. Residents will be responsible for paying for curb, gutter, sidewalks and driveway approaches through property tax assessments.
    City officials met with property owners last week. Most are hopeful the improvements will eliminate water that sometimes stands for hours in the streets after a rainstorm, Weadock said.
    "It's bound to help," council member James Harris said.
    The city is getting about $325,000 in Ohio Public Works Commission Issue II money for the project. That grant will be used to defer the cost to all taxpayers, but the work that needs to be paid for by residents along the streets will be at full price, Weadock said.
    Bids must still be sought before the exact cost of the project is known.


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