The city of Athens said the Limestone County Water and Sewer Authority never asked permission, as required by law, to extend water and sewer lines into annexed portions of the county.

Three weeks ago LCWA attorney Jim Moffatt asked the circuit court for a temporary restraining order against the city to keep the municipal water and sewer departments from extending anymore lines into annexed areas.

The suit is the culmination of at least two years of unproductive talks between the city and county water authority, according to Moffatt. He said that it was time for the courts to decide. A hearing has been set before Circuit Court Judge Robert Baker for Feb. 22 at 10:30 a.m.

The area at issue is on the east and west sides of North Lindsay Lane, but any court ruling would affect the whole county, according to City Attorney Shane Black. The subdivision in question has been under development for some time east of Lindsay Lane and north of Alabama 251, nearly to Compton Road. The LCWA has lines that run in front of he subdivision and the city has water lines that run 1,200 feet to the south. The authority has served the area for a number of years, although it is in city limits.

In its answer to the LCWA’s complaint, which the city filed Friday in Circuit Court, the city states: “The Authority never received the City’s consent to place or maintain this water line within the right of way on the east side of North Lindsay Lane.” The answer goes on to say that the city has information that the LCWA intends to cross Lindsay Lane to serve a subdivision on the west side of the road. “The City has never give the Authority permission to expand its water line in this manner,” states the city’s counterclaim.

“The city is very disappointed that it came to a lawsuit,” said Black. “But we will defend the city against this legal attack.”

Black said the Alabama Constitution of 1901, which provided for the formation of the water authority, also says any expansion along city streets or rights of way has to be by permission of the municipality.

“This is a very basic power of the city to be able to control and manage what’s on city streets or rights of way with any kind of utility,” said Black.

In the city’s counterclaim it is asking the court to “enjoin LCWA to prevent it from adding to or improving lines that are located within the city streets or rights of way without permission of the city.”

Black said it would be up to the City Council to grant such permission to LCWA.

Black said there was no basis for water authority allegations that “Athens is raiding customers in recently annexed areas. The city has not taken any action to prevent LCWA from serving its customers within those areas,” said Black.

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