Putnam Battles Baldwin for shared water

Putnam battles Baldwin for shared water

By Shannon Sneed

Shannon@msgr.com

 

A recent statement issued by the Putnam County Board of Commissioners suggests Baldwin County has for several years been using more than its allotted share of water without reimbursing Putnam County citizens.

In an effort to avoid a court battle over a possible breach in contract by Baldwin County officials, Putnam County commissioners issued a statement Feb. 20 asserting that its citizens had been disserviced by an intergovernmental agreement between the counties and Sinclair Water Authority and was offering a proposal for an amendment that would remove some of the controversial elements.

However, this would not be the first attempt by Putnam County representatives to resolve the issues PC Commission Chairman Dr. Steve Hersey told EPWSA board members, noting that for almost two years he and Putnam County’s attorney have tried to negotiate with Baldwin County for amendments to the IGA.

 “We have put three proposals in front of Baldwin County,” said Hersey; “all of which have been rejected.”

SWA is the only source of potable water for EPWSA and the act creating SWA specifies that it can only sell water to Putnam and Baldwin counties and not directly to any other authority or individual.

As a result of that, a separate agreement was formed between Putnam County and EPWSA guaranteeing it could purchase up to three-quarters of the amount of water that is guaranteed to the county by SWA.

Hersey noted the Putnam/Baldwin/SWA IGA contains a number of items, which had become contentious since the start of the full operation of that authority in 2009. And the main source of contention is the definition of how costs are distributed between the two counties in terms of their purchase of water from SWA.

Hersey said that since each county was guaranteed half of the plant’s capacity, also explaining that there is a formula written in the IGA that is supposed to be used to calculate the cost of the overage used by the offending county and reimbursed to the non-offending county,

“The capacity for the purposes of our agreement are defined in our agreement,” said Hersey. “And Baldwin was routinely using more than 2 million gallons a day and not reimbursing Putnam according to a formula that is provided.”

Hersey advised that the SWA plant was constructed and built to produce 4 million gallons a day with redundancy.

“There are three membrane trains, each of which is capable ideally of producing 2 million gallons of water per day,” Hersey said explaining the facilities capability. “So theoretically, the plant could produce on any one given day 6 million gallons of water.”

EPWSA Director Donna Van Haute added that the facility’s capacity is permitted for “4 million gallons, which is what the original IGA says.”

The issue was first raised around 2010 when former Putnam County SWA board members, according to Hersey, noticed Baldwin County was routinely exceeding their capacity allotment.

Hersey said that at that time Baldwin argued the capacity was not set at 4 million gallons a day, but whatever the plant could produce.

EPWSA board member Mike Rowland noted that how much the plant is capable of producing was irrelevant because the capacity was set in the agreement.

“I don’t care if it produces 100 million gallons per day,” said Rowland, “by virtue of this agreement, it’s four.”

Putnam County commissioners have asked Baldwin County officials to respond to the statement they issued within 60 days.

“Let’s fix the confusion by offering these elements as an amendment so that going forward we won’t have the confusion anymore,” said Hersey. “I don’t know how they argue the capacity at four.”

 

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