Just when we thought the city of East Liverpool vs. Buckeye Water District seven-year-old lawsuit was headed for resolution, East Liverpool is reneging on the agreement and asking for more money.
Back in May, East Liverpool offered to settle the breach-of-contract suit for $5.9 million and BWD scraped the money together through several sources, including county commissioners. Now East Liverpool ups the ante saying it wants more because that agreement has been pending too long. It's a little like moving the goal line farther away each time the team gets near the end zone. How is that fair?
BWD attorney Fred Emmerling was incredulous upon learning that East Liverpool is balking at the agreement. "At this point in time it's discouraging that Liverpool would make a proposal and then step backward and say 'no'," he said.
Originally the courts ordered BWD to pay East Liverpool $9.5 million after the water district quit purchasing water from East Liverpool in 2005 despite a contract signed in 1994 agreeing to buy the city's water for another 20 years.
An appeals court later reduced the award to $4.8 million, which was followed in June by another appeals court decision in favor of East Liverpool on other legal issues. The BWD contemplated appealing that decision to the Ohio Supreme Court but decided otherwise, ending its legal fight and leaving the dollar amount as the only unresolved issue.
This debacle needs to end. The $5.9 million settlement offer - $4.8 million in principle, plus $1.1 million in interest is fair, and four months ago East Liverpool apparently thought so, too.
BWD has other business to pursue and certainly the city of East Liverpool has uses for that money besides continuing to pay attorneys' fees. The only people benefiting from this current stalemate are the attorneys for both sides, and any further delay will come at the expense of East Liverpool's taxpayers and BWD customers, who ultimately pay, one way or the other.
A phone conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday to discuss the matter further and perhaps come to an agreement.
"This thing just has to come to an end," said an exasperated Judge Ashley Pike. We agree. East Liverpool should accept the $5.9 million settlement and BWD should pay up immediately.