Seneca will not appeal Pioneer Ruling

After an executive session Monday night, Seneca City Administrator Greg Dietterick announced that the city would not appeal the recent ruling in the Pioneer Rural Water District case. “On my recommendation the council is that they do not appeal it. Westminster didn’t have standing in the lawsuit as you heard from the judge. The county isn’t interested in appeal it and I just feel that we would be throwing more money at legal fees and the end result would be the same. I would say that you are probably looking at a couple hundred thousand dollars in legal fees, I’m going by memory, but I know that those fees were split up among the four different folks so roughly around $50,000 to $60,000 each.” Oconee Court of Common Pleas Judge Lawton McIntosh recently denied an injunction by Oconee County, the cities of Seneca and Westminster, and the Oconee Joint Regional Sewer Authority to halt Pioneer’s construction of a $21 million water treatment plant. Dietterick feels that ruling will eventually cost county taxpayers. “I think any time that you stand up for the people it is worth the fight. The sad part is that the court doesn’t care about the people, it’s quit evident. The rates are going to double down there, there is no doubt about it, you can’t run those numbers and build $21 million worth of plant and not raise rates, they’re going to double. It hurts Westminster, look at there load, their going lose that customer. We’ll be fine, we don’t need Pioneer as a customer, we have enough load out there and we’ve got a lot coming on, so we don’t have any challenge there. If you look at the big picture, your looking at water rates going up in Westminster because they have lost a major customer that’s 40% of their budget or 60%, you can ask them what that is and then you have all the folks down in the lower part of the county their rates are all going to go up. So let’s play devil’s advocate then, what happens if Westminster can’t do that and they file bankruptcy, who pays Westminster’s bills then? Everybody in the county pays for it because the county is going to have to step in and take over Westminster, it’s sad.” Currently, Pioneer purchases approximately 40% of its water from Westminster and 60% from Seneca. In October, Judge McIntosh denied the request stating that there was no basis to overturn a decision by the Pioneer Board to construct the facility.