Originally created 09/07/00

Merger causes dispute



WARRENVILLE - The merger of Warrenville Water and Sewer and Valley Public Service Authority has resulted in a controversy over more than $70,000 in cash assets and two small pieces of property.

VPSA threatened to sue over a plan by Warrenville Commissioners Benjamin Sealy, Ralph L. Moore and Charles Cromer to provide three years of free garbage pickup to the 200 customers of the Warrenville district at a cost of $57,000.

But VPSA commissioners, led by C. Don Smith, said the money should be turned over to the public service authority, General Manager Calvin "Bubba" Smith said. The agreement stipulated that all assets be turned over to VPSA when the two agencies consolidated.

Warrenville relented on its plan to provide free garbage pickup through 2004, and mailed a check for $64,804 to VPSA. But the Warrenville commissioners had already paid Curry Sanitation Co. of Clearwater $8,000 to provide garbage pickup through Dec. 31 at no cost to Warrenville customers.

Additionally, two pieces of property owned by the water system were deeded to the Warrenville Christian Men's Association. The properties, a small office on Timmerman Street and the Girl Scout Hut on Slater Circle, were given to the water district by Graniteville Co., now Avondale, for as long as it existed, Mr. Moore said.

"If the water district ever went out of business, it would have reverted back to the company," he said.

Calvin Smith, however, is skeptical that the Warrenville commissioners had the legal right to give the property to the Christian Men's Association. He contends that the water district still exists in a consolidated state with VPSA.

VPSA took possession of the Warrenville system Aug. 28 after the consolidation was approved by Aiken County Council on July 19.

"Since we first started talking with VPSA late last year, we understood that the only money that would change hands would be the meter deposits, about $7,300," Mr. Moore said.

Still, Calvin Smith said the agreement signed by Mr. Sealy and Don Smith on April 14 clearly supports VPSA's claims.

According to the agreement, "The Consolidated District shall assume all assets of Warrenville and all liabilities, if any." The statement is echoed in the resolution approved by the county council in July after a public hearing was held June 20.

Mr. Moore, however, said he did not find out about VPSA's objections to Warrenville's plans until mid-August.

But Calvin Smith said the relevant date is April 14, when Mr. Sealy signed the agreement. It was an agreement that contained stipulations Mr. Moore said he was not aware of, and he said he is certain Mr. Sealy was unaware that their earlier understanding with VPSA no longer would be included in the deal.

Calvin Smith said he cannot comment on what steps, if any, VPSA plans to take, because the matter has been referred to an attorney.

Reach Pat Willis at (803) 279-6895.