After nearly eight years of legal wrangling, the East Liverpool City lawsuit against the Buckeye Water District has finally been resolved.
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. On Thursday, the city agreed to accept $6.2 million from BWD as final settlement.
A verbal agreement was reached last April that would have paid East Liverpool $5.9 million to settle the lawsuit. But, after the BWD came up with the money, the city changed its mind, saying it wanted another $600,000 to $700,000 in interest.
Prior to the start of Thursday's hearing, Judge Ashley Pike gave the attorneys another chance to resolve the dispute through negotiations, and they agreed to give it a try one more time. Later that day, after meeting behind closed doors, attorneys returned with an agreement in which, the BWD agreed to:
-Pay East Liverpool a total of $6.2 million - the $4.8 million judgment, plus $1.4 million in interest. The additional $300,000 will come from BWD funds that had been frozen by the court pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
-Pay East Liverpool an additional $350,000, plus interest, should the U.S. Department of Agriculture file a lawsuit laying claim to any of the BWD funds used in the settlement.
The best news is BWD Director Al DeAngelis said the BWD can pay the settlement without having to raise water rates for its customers. The BWD is putting up $3.6 million of its own funds, plus $1.1 million received from leasing property for shale gas development and $1.5 million loaned the BWD by county commissioners.
As Judge Pike said, "... I think the public is more than ready for this thing to be settled." We think so, too, and we hope this is the last installment in this saga.