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Going to court over water

Town of Maiden pursuing old lawsuit again Lincoln County

SARAH LOWERY
Staff Writer

The town of Maiden has refiled a lawsuit from several years ago against Lincoln County, perpetuating a dispute over sewer-line services for the Lincoln County Industrial Park.
Many of the original players involved in the matter are no longer with either side in the conflict. Having been delayed for years, the claim was set to time out and had to be refiled to be kept alive.
Lincoln County Attorney Wesley Deaton informed the Board of Commissioners of the legal matter during its meeting last Monday.
According to previous Times-News reports, the town of Maiden first filed a lawsuit in November 2007 against the county, Lincolnton and the Lincoln County Industrial Park due to plans to shift sewer services to Lincolnton and away from Maiden.
At the center of the litigation was a 1995 sewer contract between the county and Maiden, which was treating the park’s sewage until the county went through with plans to reroute it and bring the flow to Lincolnton. County Manager George Wood, who noted that the issue pre-dates him, told the Times-News last week that Maiden was given three year’s notice of the county’s intent to do so.
Maiden began providing the services when the park was first built.
Potential points of contention could be whether reasonable notice to change the contract was given or needed, as well as the length of the contract.
With Lincoln County having been one of Maiden’s largest sewer customers, Wood noted that the town’s officials were upset over the loss of revenue. Officials from both sides have met periodically to try to resolve the issue outside of court, though they have yet to reach a settlement, he said.
“We’re prepared to go to court,” Wood added, saying that Deaton is confident the county would prevail.
Maiden Town Manager Todd Herms, who is also pre-dated by the initial lawsuit, told the Times-News last week that he estimated the loss of revenue to the town of Maiden to be roughly $150,000 a year.
Of any out-of-court agreements, he said Lincoln County “didn’t want to make a reasonable offer.”
He also noted that Maiden put $2 million into a new wastewater treatment plant while it was still treating the industrial park’s sewage to boost its capacity. Herms said he believes that once the park started growing, the county then decided to transfer its sewer services to Lincolnton, a move he called not very neighborly.
Kent Crowe, who came on board as the attorney for the town of Maiden nearly four years ago, confirmed that settlement discussions had taken place but that an agreement could not be reached.
He said he refiled the claim this fall after it came up on a trial calendar.
The initial suit was delayed after an issue arose over a change of venue for the claim, which was originally filed in Catawba County but then, following an appeal, had to be transferred to Lincoln County.

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