The city of Prichard and the Prichard Water Works and Sewer Board (PWWSB) appear to have reached a compromise to allow for continued inspections of fire hydrants in the city.
In a joint court filing, attorneys for both sides proposed an agreement to Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Michael Youngpeter, which would force the city to pay a monthly fee for service. Youngpeter has not yet filed a ruling on the agreement.
According to the proposal, the city will pay $27,744 per month to the board for the hydrants. The payments will be made to an interest-bearing account no later than the 10th of each month.
Jennifer Susman, a local attorney representing the city, did not return a call seeking comment. Jay Laura, the board attorney, said the agreement would allow both sides to agree to continued inspections of the hydrants in question. The inspections were a contentious issue for both sides.
Laura said completed inspections could “potentially” lead to a resolution of the larger issues.
Prichard Mayor Jimmie Gardner previously told reporters the city has not paid a bill for fire hydrants in about a year. He said he refused to pay because he believed some hydrants were not functional or were not where they were supposed to be. In a retaliatory move, the water board shut off service to the A.J. Cooper Municipal Complex in June, prompting the city’s lawsuit.
At the time, the city complained the board was in breach of contract and sought a temporary restraining order to force the board to turn the water back on. Judge Rick Stout granted the TRO on June 18.
“Accordingly, the court orders that defendant is to: turn on any services to the city it has shut off, immediately cease and desist in shutting off any further water services to the city and provide an itemized accounting for each hydrant for which PWWSB contends it is owed money from the city,” the order read in part.
According to court documents, the Prichard Fire Department notified the board that about 100 hydrants weren’t in compliance with code. In addition, the city argued “many” were actually located in Semmes and were not its responsibility.
The city also argued that despite requesting an itemized bill for each of the hydrants from the board, officials have not received one.
In its response, the board denied most of the claims made in the city’s complaint and filed a counterclaim seeking payment for 1,054 hydrants.
“In November 2017, the city began failing and refusing to pay the Water Works Board for the services it was receiving from the Water Works Board for the 1,054 fire hydrants … ,” the counterclaim read. “By failing and refusing to pay for these services, the city has become delinquent on the total debt it incurs on a monthly basis for the total water services being provided by the Water Works Board. With the passing of each month, this debt increases.”
The board claims the city owes $274,677 for the hydrant service.
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