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Georgetown sues Floyd County over sewer plant

April 23, 2008
The Town of Georgetown has filed a suit with the Floyd County Circuit Court, naming Floyd County, the Floyd County Plan Commission and the Floyd County Board of Commissioners as defendants.

The suit, filed on March 26, asks the court to declare that municipal sewer construction is a state-regulated function not subject to local regulation under the Home Rule Act and that Georgetown may construct a wastewater treatment plant at the 23-acre site owned by the town, known as the O'Brien property, which is outside of the town but within 10 miles of its corporate boundaries.

The suit also asks the court to declare that the property is within the territorial jurisdiction of Georgetown and that the town is not required to seek additional approval to construct wastewater treatment facilities at the O'Brien property other than those approvals required according to Indiana Code.

In addition, the suit mentions that Floyd County and its agencies, including the Floyd County Plan Commission, lack subject matter jurisdiction to make decisions over municipal sewer construction and asks the court for an order enjoining Floyd County and the Floyd County Planning Commission from enforcing any planning and zoning regulation that interferes with the construction of Georgetown's wastewater treatment facilities at the O'Brien property.

On a fact sheet accompanying the suit, the town says that it now procures sewage treatment services from the City of New Albany under a contract last amended on Aug. 1, 2006. Under that contract, effective Feb. 1, 2009, the rates Georgetown pays to New Albany for sewage treatment will increase from the wholesale rate to the nonresidential retail rate charged to customers outside New Albany, which will more than triple the rates that Georgetown currently pays for sewage treatment.

The contract also requires that Georgetown must construct its own wastewater treatment plant by Feb. 1, 2009, but allows for a delay because of litigation. If the town has not begun construction of the facility by Feb. 1, 2009, or completed a sewage treatment plant by Feb. 1, 2010, Georgetown will owe New Albany contract penalty fees of $450,000 regardless of litigation delays.

The suit also states that Georgetown applied to the Floyd County Plan Commission for a zoning change to the O'Brien property to allow the construction of the sewage treatment plant on the property, but the Plan Commission in October 2007 gave the zoning change an unfavorable recommendation and that the Floyd County Commissioners also denied Georgetown's request for a zoning amendment.

The town states that its ability to provide for the health and welfare of its citizens is impaired by the inability to build a wastewater treatment plant and that Georgetown's property values are harmed and will continue to be harmed by the prospect of higher sewage rate costs.

The suit also notes that delays in construction of a wastewater treatment plant have resulted in substantial increases in the cost of the proposed facility and that Georgetown has made substantial investments for the construction of the facility and will suffer "unrecoverable financial losses and other irreparable harms if construction is not commenced."

Billy Stewart, president of the town council, refused to comment on the suit, saying, "I can't comment on anything that's in litigation."

At the regular meeting of the Georgetown Town Council on April 15, resident Elizabeth Madden asked the board about its intentions concerning building a sewage treatment plant on property the town owns on Baylor-Wissman Road, near the town's maintenance garage.

"We have passed an ordinance on the O'Brien property," Stewart said. "That's the only site we have passed an ordinance on. Anything in litigation, we can't talk about. We can't tell you more than that — but that speaks volumes."

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