City wants suit dismissed

January 02, 2003|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN - City of Hagerstown officials have asked that a $2.5 million lawsuit brought against the city by the Washington County Commissioners be dismissed, stating in court documents the city denies most of the county's allegations.

The request for dismissal was part of a three-page response to the county's Dec. 2 suit. The suit claims the city violated terms of a sewer service agreement between the city and the county by refusing to adopt and execute an amendment to that agreement.

City Attorney John H. Urner filed the response Monday in Washington County Circuit Court, according to the date stamp on the document provided by the city. The response does not provide specific reasons for the dismissal request.


"I guess he's saving his legal arguments for the court," Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner said Tuesday.

Breichner said he thinks the suit should be dismissed because it's an issue the city and county can settle without a judge.

"The real issue is the city and county sitting down talking," Breichner said. "I just don't see the judge sitting there making a decision on what we should be doing."

In the suit, the county asks that a judge order the city to abide by the terms of a 2001 amendment to the sewer agreement. The amendment addresses flows under a proposed connection of the city's and county's systems.

The dispute stems from a city policy which gives the city the power to withhold sewer service from property owners outside the city who request it.

Before receiving city sewer service, owners of property that does not border the city have to agree to future annexation once their properties become contiguous to existing city boundaries, under the city plan. The policy, however, does allow for certain exemptions.

The county favors keeping the wording of the old policy, which says the city "shall" accept new sewer flows, compared to city's "may."

Some commissioners have said the city's policy to force annexation is illegal.

Alleging a breach of contract, the county has asked for $2.5 million in losses and damages, plus court costs. The suit says the disagreement is delaying the construction of a sewer interconnection near Hopewell Road.

With the interconnector in place, the city and county would each see an increase in net revenues of $1.5 million over 10 years.

Commissioner Jim Kercheval said Tuesday he's hopeful the city and county can settle the matter before the case is heard by a judge. He said the suit forces a timeline for the city and county to reach a resolution before that happens.

"Hopefully, it could get resolved before it ever gets to that point," Kercheval said.

Kercheval and Breichner said the city and county are in discussions to resolve the issue.

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