"Sewage" Trial Ends

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The basis for the dispute between Marion and Meridian was that, when in November 2000, Meridian raised Marion's rate for treating sewage from 67 cents 1,000 gallons to $2.43, the action was arbitrary and unreasonable.

Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith maintained it was not.

"I think we demonstrated that all we ever sought was a fair rate of return for the service that we provide to the town of Marion," said Smith, "and that must be a rate that's fair to the people of Meridian. The rate we're asking Marion to pay is the same rate, in fact, it's now a little less than the rate we ask our own citizens to pay."

But Marion's attorney, Tom Goldman, has a different view.

"That we had a valid contract with the city of Meridian, solemnly entered into between two governing bodies," Goldman said. "That they're using a case that says the contract is voidable by a succeeding council. Since that time they've entered into contracts with the Navy and the prison for five years apiece. Are these contracts voidable?"

Marion Mayor Malcolm Threatt said Wednesday the outcome of the trial could force his town to go into the sewer business for itself.

"If we lose, we could very well make our own plant," said Threatt.

Testimony by Meridian City Clerk Ed Skipper indicated the difference between what Marion has actually paid and what the city claims it should have been paying for the past two years now amounts to $381,000.

Chancery Judge Jerry Mason, who indicated he would hand down his ruling in about two weeks, heard the case.