LISBON - The Buckeye Water District has voted to appeal the latest court decision in favor of East Liverpool, and that is apparently what it will do while the parties continue to negotiate.
BWD Director Al DeAngelis confirmed the board voted at Monday's special meeting to appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court last week's decision by the Ohio 7th District Court of Appeals, but they will only proceed if unable to resolve the dispute.
"It just gives them the right to do that if they feel the need to go that route," he said.
DeAngelis said the two sides have been in negotiations this week in an attempt to reach a settlement agreement that will resolve the legal dispute once and for all. "Nothing has been done and we're still in negotiations," he said.
But during a telephone conference held Thursday afternoon in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court, the attorneys told Judge C. Ashley Pike the latest negotiations have reached a stalemate after a proposed settlement agreement was rejected. East Liverpool's attorney Tom Connors indicated one of the parties to the lawsuit refused to waive its right to pursue any future legal claims as part of any settlement agreement, but he declined to identify the party.
Other sources advised the party refusing to waive all legal claims was one of the government agencies that has loaned money to the BWD for water projects and be subject to any garnishment.
When asked by Judge Pike if this meant the BWD was going to file an appeal, "That appears where we're heading," O'Toole replied, adding he expected to file an appeal today or Monday.
The district appeals court ruled last week the state sovereign immunity law that protects government agencies from court claims did not apply to $4.8 million judgment awarded East Liverpool against the BWD. The appeals court also ruled East Liverpool was free to take possession of $3.35 million in BWD funds held in escrow to apply toward satisfying the judgment.
The ruling was the latest in a series of legal challenges raised by the BWD to avoid paying the $4.8 million-plus it owes East Liverpool resulting from the city's successful 2005 breach-of-contract lawsuit involving the purchase of water.
Pike encouraged them to continue negotiating in the hope of reaching an agreement. "You know, we're all a lot older than when this thing started," he jokingly told the attorneys.
None of them laughed.