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Chiefland could face lawsuit from Otter Creek

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Officials with the Town of Otter Creek say they are gearing up for a lawsuit against the City of Chiefland after a year-long negotiation for water went sour at the start of the year.

"Is there a contract?" asked Chiefland City Commissioner Chris Jones at Monday night's regular commission meeting.

City Attorney Norm Fugate said no final contract had ever been signed, adding that his interpretation of the negotiation process was, quite simply, that it was leading up to what would eventually be in a contract.

The negotiations that took place were over plans for the construction of a pipeline that would have pumped clean, potable water from Chiefland to Otter Creek. Otter Creek would have been responsible for the cost of construction and then would have paid the city for water.

But Chiefland commissioners didn't vote to move forward with that agreement, which could have been an answer to the hazardous water quality issue state officials have ordered the town to address.

Otter Creek sent Chiefland a letter Feb. 28 requesting the two municipalities meet for conflict resolution, a procedure Florida law requires to happen before one government sues another.

"Otter Creek is justified in pursuing the provisions of the Act and initiating the conflict resolution process because it has incurred damages from Chiefland's breach and misrepresentations," the letter stated.

Chiefland Mayor Teal Pomeroy, City Manager Kevin Gay and Fugate all agreed at Monday night's regular commission meeting to sit down with officials in Otter Creek March 17 at 5:30 p.m.

Pomeroy, despite the recent decision by the commission to deny Otter Creek water, said he thought the two municipalities had a good relationship.

"For all I know, the engineering firm (Mittauer and Associates Inc.) may have had them write this letter," Pomeroy said, adding that he's heard the firm has called the Florida Department of Environmental Protection with complaints about the city.

"I don't think that's really a reflection of the people at Otter Creek."