Three years ago the city of Athens and the Limestone County Water and Sewer Authority were fighting each other in court over who had the right to serve customers in city annexed portions of Limestone County.

Several days ago in a budget hearing Athens Mayor Dan Williams invited the county into city territory to share in the expense and operation of a new sewer plant. Williams says he believes the time is right for collaboration.

“We have settled our differences in the last few years and we need to make more effort on both sides to work together,” said the mayor.

The differences to which Williams alluded was the LCWSA asking the circuit court in 2006 for a temporary restraining order against the city to keep the municipal water and sewer departments from extending any more lines into annexed areas.

The disputed area was east and west of North Lindsay Lane. The city, in turn, asked the court to enjoin LCWSA from adding to or improving lines that are located within city streets or rights of way without permission of the city.

After being ordered into mediation by Circuit Court Judge Bob Baker, the two sides came to an agreement to effectively draw a line around the city, with the county serving everything outside the line. In the months after the settlement the two sides worked through disputes over transmission lines that cross territories.

Now, the city is under an Environmental Protection Agency mandate to build a new $24 million wastewater treatment plant. The city has begun work on the plant, which will be located near where the old plant is on the east end of Sanderfer Road.

Currently, LCWSA offers sewer service in limited areas of the county. The authority is currently building a $3.5 million East Limestone plant upgrade and sewer lines. The authority also serves subdivisions in the southeast part of the county, which are equipped with lift stations to pump sewage through county lines for transmission under the Tennessee River to Decatur. The authority also operates a sewage treatment plant in the Elkmont Rural Village and is under contract to take over sewage treatment for county schools.

“This is the greatest opportunity for the city and county to work together,” said Williams.

However, while authority Interim General Manager Tammy Smith says she’s amendable to working with the city whenever possible, she says the authority currently has no funds to invest in the project.

“I don’t know how close their infrastructure is to ours, so I don’t know what the feasibility of that would be,” said Smith. “We would be open to meeting with them, but financially, we do not have excess bond money to invest in something like that.

“I do believe the two entities should stay in touch to more effectively run both utilities.”

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