VALLEY SPRINGS — The Ozark Mountain Regional Public Water Authority wants all member water systems to pay their share of legal costs.
At the water authority’s quarterly board meeting, held earlier this month at Valley Springs City Hall, board chairman Andy Anderson announced that several water systems have not contributed their share of money to be used in the lawsuit against the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH). Anderson said that the Western Grove, Lead Hill, Marshall, SDM, South Mountain and Morning Star water systems have not kept up with their payments into the legal fund. According to figures provided by Anderson, the authority is still $3,355 short.
The authority last fall filed suit against the ADH over fluoridation requirements. Act 197 of the state legislature requires that all water systems with more than 5,000 customers must add fluoride to the water. The authority has argued that it sells water to 18 water systems and none of those individual systems have 5,000 customers, so it should be excused from fluoridation requirements.
At a December 2015 meeting, the board agreed that the cost of litigation would be shared equally among the water systems. The cost of litigation was estimated to be $12,500, and it was further agreed that each water system would pay $100 a month until that amount was reached.
The authority is being represented by Chris Lawson of the Little Rock firm of Friday, Eldredge and Clark.
Board member Ed Manor asked Anderson to send information to all the water systems as to why the authority is fighting the fluoridation requirement. Anderson said he could do that if the board wanted, but he felt that all member systems should know the importance of the issue.
Anderson felt that contributing to the legal fund would send a message.
“If everybody was putting their money in, the judge would notice it,” he said.
Anderson remained optimistic about the authority’s chances in the lawsuit.
“Our case looks good,” he said. “Everybody I talk to says we have a good case.”
No court date has yet been scheduled for the lawsuit, and Anderson thought that was a good sign.
“I think the health department knows we have a good case,” he said. “They won’t admit it.”
Anderson also gave an update on a lawsuit filed against the authority over non-payment for the installation of a water line over the U.S. Highway 65 bridge at the Buffalo River. Anderson said a judge had referred the matter to mediation prior to May 31.
Anderson told the board that the authority’s engineer, Engineering Services Incorporated of Springdale, said the line was not installed properly. He went on to say that the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department has said it won’t accept the line as it is.
Board member Winton McInnis questioned the legality of the mediation decision.
“I’m not sure you can be forced to go to mediation,” he said. “We have a right to our day in court.”
In other business, the board agreed to have Anderson look into a Metron-Farnier remote meter reading system, the cost of which would be $8,750. The system could be read on a phone or other electronic device. Anderson pointed out that it would save many miles of driving by water authority manager Matt Mosley.