Judge denies Sterlington lawsuit against GOWC

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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - UPDATE: Thurs 12:35 PM, Dec 14, 2017

Courtesy: KNOE 8 News

For the second time, a judge has denied Sterlington's lawsuit against Greater Ouachita Water Company.

The town was trying to expropriate, or acquire, the company's water lines to provide their own water treatment system to people in town.

In the ruling, Judge Alvin Sharp says, "From the testimony and other evidentiary offerings made in this hearing, it seems clear to this Court that the Town of Sterlington did not carry its burden of proof on this point. From the testimony and other evidentiary offerings made in this hearing, it seems clear to this Court that the Town of Sterlington is not in a proper posture to receive nor operate a water distribution system. This seems evident from the showings made in that the Town of Sterlington has no funds or promise of funding, the Town of Sterlington does not have a source of water at present and its targeted water source is not sufficient to produce an adequate water supply for its citizens."

GOWC's Secretary Philip McQueen said in a statement, "The Court's conclusion is clear. The Town's request to expropriate GOWC's assets
is not in the public interest. At this point, GOWC's focus is on the future, continuing to serve its customers, including the residents of Sterlington."

The town filed the original suit back in March, which the judge dismissed in July. That decision prompted the town to re-file the suit.

In response, Sterlington's lawyers said, "Sterlington will be exploring its options for providing the water supply necessary for its active growth and the benefit of the North Ouachita Parish region."

Sterlington's Mayor Vern Breland says the town plans to file an appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

UPDATE: Thurs 11:30 AM, Dec 07, 2017

Testimony wraps up on day four of Sterlington's courtroom battle over water lines with Greater Ouachita Water Company.

Judge Alvin Sharp hasn’t yet ruled on a dismissal motion made by GOWC because he says he didn’t get a chance to read it last night. Judge Sharp decided to hear testimony while reading over dismissal file.

The court recessed at 11:30 am for an hour-long lunch break.

UPDATE: Wed 3:00 PM, Dec 06, 2017

Testimony is nearing an end, after several hours of arguments over water utility lines Sterlington seeks to force Greater Ouachita Water Company to sell. Judge Alvin Sharp heard arguments for several hours Wednesday morning and through the afternoon until the court recessed for an hour around 2:30 PM.

Both Greater Ouachita Water Co. and Sterlington lawyers questioned witnesses in an attempt to sway Judge Sharp's opinion on whether Sterlington can effectively run its own water system. Greater Ouachita's position is that Sterlington doesn't have the money or other resources to buy, operate and maintain a water system.

It the town wins, Sterlington might have to construct and run its own water treatment plant, which they argue they are capable of doing.

Wednesday's proceedings are expected to go on until at least 5:00 PM. Judge Sharp's decision could come Thursday.

UPDATE: Wed 9:45 AM, Dec 06, 2017

The town of Sterlington broke through a major legal obstacle in their courtroom showdown over water lines with Greater Ouachita Water Company (GOWC). A battle that could impact the future of Sterlington entered its third day at the Ouachita Parish Courthouse on Wednesday morning.

The major development is that Judge Alvin Sharp overruled Greater Ouachita's argument that the town of Sterlington's lawsuit is premature. Lawyers for GOWC said the lawsuit was filed before town representatives had taken the necessary steps to operate and maintain the water lines. They questioned whether Sterlington had the money to even buy the lines and construct a water treatment facility.

The trial has moved onto the next part: the necessity of the lawsuit.

UPDATE: 12/5/17 7:00pm

On Tuesday, the trial between Greater Ouachita Water Company and the town of Sterlington continued into day two, as the two sides presented their arguments to the judge about whether or not GOWC's water lines should be given to Sterlington.

Five witnesses took the stand on Tuesday - Sterlington town engineer Chris Patrick, GOWC engineer Charles Taylor, GOWC Chief Operating Officer Philip McQueen, Sterlington Town Councilman Cesar Velasquez and Sterlington Municipal Adviser Aaron Fletcher.

Each person gave their testimony on the legal dispute, helping the judge come to the decision about whether or not Sterlington is financially capable of buying the lines from GOWC and constructing their own water treatment facility.

Judge Alvin Sharp is expected to make a decision Wednesday morning on the "exemption of pre-maturity" facet of this trial. In other words, Sharp will decide whether Sterlington's expropriation lawsuit is premature.

ORIGINAL STORY: 12/4/17 1:08pm

On Monday, the trial between Greater Ouachita Water Company and the town of Sterlington continued, as Sterlington continues to fight for their own water system.

Multiple witnesses were subpoenaed and expected to take the stand Monday. But, only one person testified - John Gallagher, the Executive Director of the Louisiana Municipal Association.

After Gallagher's testimony, court was adjourned until 9 am Tuesday morning. The short day was due to the fact that Greater Ouachita's lead witness, and someone their judicial argument was centered on, was unable to make court due to a family emergency.

Back in July, Judge Alvin Sharp dismissed the lawsuit, saying Sterlington Mayor Vern Breland filed it prematurely. Breland filed the first lawsuit back in March without written approval from the town council.

After the judge's decision, the board of aldermen filed a new expropriation lawsuit against the company.

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