VOSJ Trustees Accept Settlement Agreement in Labor Drive Water Litigation

By Benjamin Cox on May 4, 2021 at 12:42pm

A decades-long litigation between the Village of South Jacksonville and Labor Drive appears to have reached a settlement.

The Village Trustees voted unanimously to accept a 6-term settlement agreement that goes back to 2005 with issues in overpayment on water & sewer by Labor Drive to the village.

According to the agreement, beginning on June 1st, the village will bill Labor Drive on a per meter basis as opposed to billing on the approximately 244 apartments. There are currently 33 meters for the apartments on Labor Drive and they will be billed per month for water services.

The agreement says that each party in the litigation is waiving claims to underpayment and overpayment and the Village will provide Labor Drive with a $100,000 credit to future billings on their sewer services. After the exhaustion of the credit, Labor Drive will then pay both water and sewer on a monthly basis.

Village President Harry Jennings says as a part of the agreement the village will be changing its formula of billing for every village customer: “Our meters read in cubic feet and then there is a conversion [rate], where you convert that over from cubic feet to gallons. We’ve used just a rounded number of 7.5, which is perfect for our standard billing, but as part of this agreement, we are going to switch that to a more accurate of 7.4805 [rate].” Jennings says that water customers should only see a difference of a few pennies in their bill.

The agreement says all current and future ordinances in regards to water & sewer rates will be equally applied to Labor Drive, the Morgan County Circuit Court will retain jurisdiction over the case, and that once the credit for the sewer rates have been exhausted, the litigation will officially be released.

Jennings says he’s glad to have the agreement in place as one of his final actions as Village President: “This is the third mayor where this [litigation] has went through, because this has been going on for quite awhile. It’s kind of nice to get this albatross off from around the neck of the Village and be able to move forward and get some other ordinances cleared up. We were kind of bound by those old ordinances until we got this settled. Now, we can move forward with changing those ordinances, updating them, maybe making things more clear, and also maybe adjusting water rates in the future. When I say adjust water rates, I think our water rates are a little low but our sewer rates are a little on the high side. We actually talked about that at our last meeting. Some possibilities were to shift [those rates] around and possibly get everyone some lower bills.”

There was not an immediate estimate available on how much in legal fees the pending litigation cost due to the amount of time the case was in pending litigation.