Wake County towns ready to settle $1 million sewage bill

akenney@newsobserver.comFebruary 8, 2013 

— The sewage fight may almost be over.

After years of argument, the towns of Holly Springs, Cary, Apex and Morrisville are ready to split the bill for the massive regional wastewater plant they planned together.

Holly Springs withdrew in 2010 from the plan to build the $328 million facility in the New Hill community. The town had found a new way to deal with its waste, but its exit didn’t free it from the construction costs of the treatment plant.

The towns thus far couldn’t reach consensus on how much it would cost to change the plans after Holly Springs’ exit, or how much Holly Springs had committed to spend.

Now, if the local governments approve the settlement, Holly Springs would pay $950,000 to Cary and its partners to close the tab.

It appears to be a compromise between the parties’ previous positions.

In fall of 2012, the remaining partners claimed Holly Springs owed about $1.7 million, but the town had only agreed to about $600,000 of those costs, according to a Cary government document.

Behind the back-and-forth, there was the possibility that the towns would resort to a lawsuit to settle the bill. The statute of limitations loomed, and the parties instead agreed to continue talking while keeping a lawsuit as a possibility.

“I don’t think any of us really wanted to litigate any of the issue. I think we always realized we would settle,” said John Schifano, town attorney for Holly Springs.

Last year, Holly Springs’ management had complained about two specific costs, totaling about $900,000, that the former partners demanded of the town.

One was Holly Springs’ supposed share of the legal costs the partners paid to settle a lawsuit with the New Hill Community Association. The other was a total of about $726,000 that would go toward the extension of Apex’s water and sewer system.

Holly Springs Town Council members “are of the opinion that direct costs spent by Holly Springs residents to fund another town’s sewer and water expansion is not what they should be doing,” wrote Carl Dean, town manager of Holly Springs, in an Aug. 28 letter to Cary Town Manager Ben Shivar.

The tenor of the conversation changed when officials from the towns met face-to-face for about six hours on Jan. 9, according to Schifano.

By day’s end, the sewage-plant partners and Holly Springs management were much closer to an agreement.

“In the end, we came up with a number we could all live with,” he said.

Representatives of the involved towns are expected to sign off on the settlement this month. If the elected officials don’t like what they see, they will have until the end of the month to sue or again extend negotiations.

Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary

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