City-Town agreement in danger
Disagreement in 11th hour puts
water/wasterwater plan at risk
ST. ALBANS — An agreement on water and wastewater allocations reached last February between St. Albans City and Town will not be executed by the July 1 deadline.
In an effort to implement the agreement, which required that the town purchase up to 100,000 gallons per day in water and wastewater allocations, the town delivered a check for the purchase of one equivalent unit, 450 gallons per day, or enough for one residence, to the city on Tuesday.
City manager Dominic Cloud said this morning that the city will be returning the check.
“At present, from all perspectives, they’ve abrogated the agreement,” Murphy said.
“We executed… the agreement by the good faith purchase of one EU,” Murphy said.
The agreement settled a 2006 lawsuit between the two communities and it is not yet known what the failure to execute the agreement will mean for the lawsuit.
Asked what would happen if the agreement is not executed by July 1, Cloud said the city has not done that analysis. “We’re not focusing on ‘what if,’” Cloud said.
The city owns the water and wastewater facilities that provide services to the city and a good portion of the town’s residential and business neighborhoods bordering the city. Most of the development and additional demand for capacity has taken place in the town.
Under the agreement, the town agreed to purchase up to 100,000 gallons per day of water and wastewater allocations. The cost for the full 100,000 gallons in allocations was more than $1 million. If no purchases were made by July 1, which is Thursday, the agreement would expire.
On Monday night, the town selectboard voted unanimously to purchase one equivalent unit (EU) of capacity from the city, instructing town manager Christine Murphy to send a letter and a $5,000 check to the city. An EU is 450 gallons per day, enough capacity for one home.
The Messenger requested a copy of the letter, in which Murphy wrote that the town intends to go before voters in November to request $100,000 to purchase additional allocations.
“Please do not misconstrue this initial purchase as an attempt to unilaterally re-define our agreement,” Murphy wrote.
“The city is ready, willing and eager to implement the agreement as it was written,” Cloud said this morning, explaining that the city does not consider the purchase of one EU to meet either the letter or spirit of the agreement.
Pointing to a provision of the agreement under which the city and town would meet to discuss future needed capacity when there is less than 40,000 gallons per day available for either water or wastewater, Cloud suggested an initial purchase would need to be at least 40,000 gallons per day or 88 EUs.
“We’re not saying they need to purchase the full 100,000,” Cloud said.
“We recognize the difficulty of the situation they face,” Cloud said.
On Monday night, the city council agreed to offer the town a one year extension on the agreement to allow the town time to determine how many allocations it needs and arrange financing for the purchase.
The city is also willing to meet with the town to discuss alternatives, according to Cloud and what Murphy wrote in her letter. That letter refers to a city proposal “to discuss alternative solutions to an initial large expenditure of money by the Town.”
Under the agreement, the town will reassign its allocations to businesses and residents seeking to build in the town, giving the town control over who receives the allocations. The town had argued the city used its control over the allocations to limit growth in the town.
Murphy said the selectboard feels that an executed agreement will make it easier to raise the funds necessary to purchase additional allocations. She said the town has a legal analysis showing that any purchase up to the 100,000 is sufficient to execute the agreement.
Other provisions of the agreement included an equalization of fees charged to city and town residents for water and sewer services, the creation of an advisory council with a representative from the town, and an understanding that any expansion in capacity made to meet the needs of the town would be paid for by the town.
The agreement settled a lawsuit filed in 2006 by St. Albans Town, developers and town residents alleging that the fees charged by the city to town residents were inequitable and possibly illegal.