Washington County Commission, Marietta talk mediation in sewer dispute

MARIETTA — The Washington County commissioners agreed Thursday to have a mediation session with the City of Marietta regarding ongoing legal issues concerning a county sewer project.

The commissioners will travel to Columbus on Tuesday for a meeting with Matt Dooley, attorney for the city, and mediator John J. Petro. According to the agreement, Petro will be compensated at the rate of $250 an hour for the conference and time spent beforehand preparing for the meeting. The two entities will share equally in the cost and fees of the mediation.

“This is an agreement that was necessitated by the City of Marietta’s inability to communicate without hiring a mediator,” Commissioner David White said.

The mediation will cover breaches on both sides of the 40-year Intergovernmental Agreement of May 2011 authorized by then-Washington County Commissioners Cora Marshall, Timothy Irvine and Steven Weber on the part of the county, and then-City Council members Kathy Shively, Jon Grimm, Mike McCauley, Harley Noland, Josh Schlicher and David White (now county commissioner).

The contract outlined city obligations to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant and add capacity to take on sewage flow from Devola and Oak Grove while requiring the commissioners to sewer those two communities in four phases.

Ryan Gembala, a spokesman for O’Toole, McLaughlin, Dooley and Pecora, the law firm representing the city in this matter, was contacted by The Marietta Times and replied to White’s comment that it is “disappointing that on the eve of mediation, the commissioners continue to attack the city.”

“But it’s emblematic of their behavior all along. Past efforts to meet with the county have been unsuccessful because the county chose to turn those discussions into hostile forums where logical debate was impossible. Despite the county’s negativity, the city is approaching the mediation in good faith, but is prepared to file suit immediately if the county continues to willfully ignore its contractual obligations” Gembala said in a statement.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the commissioners received a letter from Washington County Auditor Bill McFarland as a courtesy stating that he would be allowing his employees to take the Friday after Thanksgiving off this year as a paid holiday.