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Elmer City holding back on treatment payments to Coulee Dam

 


Elmer City and Coulee Dam are in a stink over less than $1,000 in current sewage treatment bills.

Elmer City has recalculated Coulee Dam’s third quarter wastewater treatment bill by $870.74, according to exchanges between the two towns.

Elmer City submitted payment of $9,034.11 on Coulee Dam’s bill for $9,904.85 covering the third quarter last year.

In dispute is how Coulee Dam allocates the wastewater treatment plant manager Tim Lynch’s time.

Elmer City Mayor Gail Morin says the plant operator is called on to do work outside the wastewater plant and that she systematically adjusts quarterly bills from Coulee Dam because of it.

The two towns have been locked in a binding contract since 1975 that allows Coulee Dam to treat Elmer City’s sewage and bill the smaller town.

Elmer City made adjustments to how Lynch’s salary and benefits are expensed and maintains that only 75 percent of those expenses should be used to calculate the quarterly bills.

In a letter to Coulee Dam’s mayor, Greg Wilder, Morin wrote: “We know that you do not agree with the way we have been recalculating the sewer treatment bills. Please do not think that we are trying to under pay for our fair share of the costs of treatment. The amount remitted … is the amount the Town believes it owes under the 1975 agreement. As you know better than anyone, the Town has lost and never recuperated tens of thousands of dollars to improper billing that past mayors of Elmer City unwittingly paid for decades. Truly, the Town of Elmer City owes you the greatest of thanks for spotting all the irregularities and enlightening us to them, even before you became mayor. Had you not done so, it is very possible that our small town would be bankrupt today.

“At this time we would like to invite you to sit down with us to figure out a way forward that is fair to both towns.”

“The Town of Coulee Dam finds that the invoices are accurate and applicable,” Coulee Dam Mayor Greg Wilder wrote back. “If you feel the operator costs are incorrect, please provide your defined rationale and a clear set of calculations and we will review the matter.

“Now, as to the balance of your comments, it’s possible that there were errors and omissions (by and from both parties) throughout the 42 years. By our own determination and effort, Coulee Dam took note of some overcharges. Subject to statute of limitations, Coulee Dam provided credits accordingly and made them whole. By the same token, Coulee Dam is reviewing our procedures to ensure full recovery of our costs, fees and expenses.”

Since the exchange of the letters, Elmer City has received an invoice for $870.74, the amount that was shorted from payment of the original invoice.

Meanwhile, in unrelated billing disagreements from late last summer, a threatened lawsuit by Coulee Dam to recover some $55,000 of adjustments Elmer City made to wastewater treatment invoices is still pending.

In late August, the Coulee Dam council voted to ask the town’s attorney, Mick Howe, to file a lawsuit against Elmer City to recover the adjustments made to billings.

This prompted Elmer City to hire attorney Scott DeTro to represent the town against any lawsuit filed by Coulee Dam.

At the time Elmer City’s mayor said that Coulee Dam has been overcharging for years. “We are not in the suing business, but we will protect ourselves,” Morin said.

Morin said last Friday that she hasn’t heard anything since last fall about the proposed lawsuit.

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