Judge Releases Ruling

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Chancery Judge Jerry Mason ruled Tuesday that, "the rate set by the city of Meridian for continuing the treatment of Marion's sewage is a
fair and reasonable rate."

That rate is $2.43 per thousand gallons of sewage. Meridian has been billing the town for that amount since Feb. 1, 2001. Marion has been paying the former rate of 67 cents per thousand gallons.

Mason also refused Marion's request to continue at the old rate until the town could build its own sewage treatment plant.

Marion won on the request by Meridian to terminate the original agreement dating back to 1987. That request was denied.

Mayor John Robert Smith said the verdict was a victory for the people of Meridian.

"Judge Mason's decision is a clear victory for the people of Meridian,"
said Smith. "All we ever asked is that the court allow us to charge a fair and equitable rate for treating Marion sewage. We felt that fair and equitable rate is what we charge our own citizens in Meridian, Mississippi. The judge agreed with us and allowed us to charge $2.43 a thousand gallons for treating Marion's sewage."

Meridian city officials said that, under the ruling, Marion now owes the city about $442,000 in underpayments. That calculation was proposed by the city but has not yet been approved by the court.

Marion Mayor Malcolm Threatt said the verdict will be very difficult for the town.

"That means we either have to appeal the judge's ruling or we have to go up on sewage rates or we have to build our own treatment plant and we haven't decided that yet," said Threatt.

As to the debt Meridian says is owed, Threatt said he does not agree it dates back two years.

"It depends on how you interpret it," said Threatt. "I interpret it as Jan. 28, 2003, when his ruling came down, which was today."