CW responds to Lithopolis lawsuit

Canal Winchester is lobbing volleys back at Lithopolis following litigation filed in October regarding wastewater service.

On Oct. 26, Lithopolis served Canal Winchester with a lawsuit compelling the village to honor its obligation for service under a 2002 agreement and an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency plan.

In an information sheet released by Lithopolis officials, the village said for more than a year it has diligently and purposefully sought to resolve the matter with Canal Winchester, "only to watch them create new issues in what appears to be an attempt to avoid their previous commitments."

On Nov. 9, Canal Winchester officials issued a response, albeit limited in nature since the issue is in litigation, alleging statements made by Lithopolis in their fact sheet either misleading or factually inaccurate. Although Lithopolis said it was forced to resort to legal action to compel the village to honor its agreement, Canal Winchester contends Lithopolis chose to file civil litigation after the village withdrew a letter of support for a permit based on serious concerns regarding Lithopolis’ loss of a certified operator, discharge of untreated sewage, and a capacity issue.

"Despite a productive meeting between the two villages and the Ohio EPA on Sept. 26, Lithopolis balked at entering into a new agreement to address concerns that would have resulted in Canal Winchester immediately reinstating its letter of support," said Canal Winchester in its response. "Lithopolis has chosen to institute legal action with both the Ohio EPA and Canal Winchester to force a PTI without an agreement or letter of support. Canal Winchester does not understand Lithopolis’ motives or tactics in this regard and were under the assumption that the parties were negotiating in good faith. There is no issue about Canal Winchester’s compliance with the service agreement. This is a simple issue about whether Lithopolis should be able to add onto a system if they have already overcommitted their available capacity, there are issues about their ability to professionally operate the sewer system, and there are issues involving an unapproved connection and the capacity of a lift station."

In order to secure the permit to provide service to a new development, Lithopolis needed the letter of support from Canal Winchester since it was the service-providing entity. Lithopolis reported Canal Winchester refused to provide the letter, claiming that Lithopolis did not have sufficient capacity to service the area under the current agreement, which caps Lithopolis’ capacity at 250,000 gallons per day. Lithopolis reports it currently uses less than 80,000 gallons per day (gpd).

"While it is true that their average daily flow is around 80,000 gpd, Lithopolis entered into pre-annexation agreements which far exceeds their 250,000 gpd contracted flow," stated Canal Winchester officials. "Additionally, Ohio EPA was not a party to these discussions, and therefore, had no opportunity to agree to available capacity as Lithopolis claims."

On Aug. 8, 2007, Canal Winchester sent a letter to Ohio EPA suspending their letter of support for the Bishops’ Run project (located on the Griffith property). The village said issues leading to the suspension included, among several other items, an erroneous bill related to a new billing system that was resolved by Canal Winchester.

"There was, in no way, any blatant attempt to falsely accuse or delay Lithopolis, as they claim. Additional issues leading to the suspension of the letter of support are completely relevant to the Bishop’s Run project. In fact, Lithopolis entered into contracts with consultants to address the pertinent issues," continued Canal Winchester in its official statement. "To anyone reviewing the chronology of events and response times throughout this entire process, it should be obvious that it is Lithopolis, not Canal Winchester, that is orchestrating delays in the process.

Additionally, to work through these issues, Lithopolis signed a contract with Floyd Browne Associates, who are Lithopolis’ current municipal engineers. This is specifically contrary to Ohio EPA’s instructions to use an engineering firm with no conflict of interest."

In the statement, Canal Winchester Public Works Director Matt Peoples was quoted as saying, "For $2,500 Lithopolis could have partnered with Canal Winchester to resolve outstanding issues. Instead, Lithopolis has made the decision that a very expensive legal action, that will also cause further delays, will better suit its constituency."

Canal Winchester said it would welcome Lithopolis to return to the discussion table, rather than to the courtroom, to resolve matters.

Canal Winchester Law Director Gene Hollins and Lithopolis attorney Jon Browning could not be reached for comment.

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