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Bronson to discuss water with Otter Creek

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Bronson officials have had a change of heart in dealing with some of their neighbors.

Town Council members voted unanimously Monday night in favor of approaching nearby Otter Creek with discussion about providing the town water, which officials there have been trying to get from other municipalities after state agencies ordered them to fix a dangerous water quality issue.

"I was gonna' go to Otter Creek ... and see if they want to get their water from us," Council Member Berlon Weeks said, acknowledging concern after reading that Otter Creek is considering a lawsuit with the City of Chiefland after having been denied water after a year-long negotiation process.

Otter Creek is claiming it suffered damages in its dealings with Chiefland.

Bronson Mayor Franklin Schuler said Monday he had heard secondhand that Otter Creek may have lost out on some of its grant funding for a water line project because Chiefland officials were "dragging" their feet.

Attempts were made to contact Otter Creek Mayor Cleah Martin about the issue, but messages, left with the town clerk, were not returned.

Chiefland officials at the March 10 City of Chiefland Commission meeting agreed to meet with Otter Creek officials Monday in a conflict resolution, required by state law before one government sues another, but the meeting was postponed due to it not being advertised by Otter Creek, according to Otter Creek Town Clerk Connie Caldwell.

Town of Bronson officials were, at one time, also negotiating a water deal with Otter Creek, but Bronson officials ultimately decided against it, which prompted Otter Creek to begin the, ultimately, unsuccessful proposals with Chiefland.

Weeks said Monday that there may be an opportunity with about $450 million in state funds to work out a deal beneficial to both Bronson and Otter Creek.

"It's something that ... we're not going to lose anything out of it," Weeks said, adding that a deal could be another way for Bronson to make revenue, as well as helping to keep Chiefland and Otter Creek out of a costly legal matter.

It could "be a benefit to all three of us," Weeks said.

Schuler agreed, though he said it remains to be seen "how many ducks they'll (Otter Creek) will have in a row" before anything could be decided officially.

Chiefland City Manager Kevin Gay said Tuesday he was unwilling to comment on potential legal matters with Otter Creek, though, he said, "I hope Otter Creek does find a good source for water. And we do wish them well."