LISBON - Possible resolution of the East Liverpool/Buckeye Water District lawsuit has been delayed further, this time because one of the attorneys in the case is ill.
A hearing was scheduled for Monday in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court that may have been the last one needed to resolve the lawsuit, but BWD attorney Fred Emmerling filed a motion seeking a continuance. Emmerling said a BWD attorney was unavailable due to "unanticipated medical issues."
Judge C. Ashley Pike granted the motion and will decide next week when to schedule a new hearing date.
The hearing was on a motion by BWD that asks Pike to enforce a settlement agreement that would pay East Liverpool $5.9 million. East Liverpool changed its mind after the BWD came up with the money and is now wanting another $700,000-and-counting in interest.
The interest is on the $4.8 million judgment awarded East Liverpool two years ago for winning its breach-of-contract lawsuit against the BWD after the BWD quit buying water from the city in the mid 2000s. The interest accrued while BWD exhausted all of its appeals, which came to an end in June.
Court records show that East Liverpool tentatively agreed in April to settle the lawsuit for $5.9 million, and the BWD accepted. But in June, East Liverpool added a new condition demanding that, as a precaution, the U.S. Department of Agriculture waive any claims to the funds used to settle lawsuit since the USDA has loaned money for BWD projects.
This demand proved to be a deal-breaker, with the USDA saying it cannot grant such a waiver because it is not a party to the lawsuit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Rokakis sent the BWD an email on June 28 stating they have no intention of taking legal action to prevent BWD funds from being used to resolve the lawsuit and urged East Liverpool to accept what he described as a "generous" settlement offer.
In addition, the appeals court, in upholding the judgment against BWD, ruled the money owed East Liverpool is superior to any other claims that may be filed.
As this dragged on, East Liverpool filed a motion with the court on Sept. 12 indicating it wanted another $668,000, representing additional interest that is accruing on the original judgment at $699 per day.