Buckeye Water District's payment of $4.8 million awarded to the city of East Liverpool in a breach-of-contract lawsuit is long overdue.
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 and the Ohio Supreme Court in January declined to hear BWD's appeal of the judgment. Now it's time for BWD to pay up. Several attempts to institute a payment plan have fallen through and East Liverpool has yet to collect any money from the suit.
In frustration, the city filed a lawsuit against Columbiana County Commissioners seeking lease money and royalties commissioners are to receive from entering an oil/natural gas drilling lease with Chesapeake Exploration. This action could essentially put the entire county on the hook for BWD's legal tab.
Commissioners are also liable for the money by virtue of being a defendant in the lawsuit. The BWD was the successor of the former county water district, which commissioners transferred to the BWD upon its creation in the 1990s. Despite written documents transferring operational authority to the BWD and East Liverpool's acknowledgment of this transfer, a judge ruled the commissioners were still liable.
Following a meeting last week between county Commissioner Mike Halleck and city officials, Halleck expressed hope that officials are moving toward opening a dialogue to once again develop a payment plan for BWD.
East Liverpool is losing patience and BWD needs to realize that this judgment is not going away.
"East Liverpool wants to work this out, but obviously they're not going to wait forever," Halleck said.
It's time for BWD to pay the piper.