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CLRSD wins one battle, loses another

A district court judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by four Douglas County residents against the Central Lakes Region Sanitary District.

In what could prove to be a hollow victory for CLRSD, the verdict comes as another township has chosen to opt out of the district.

In a decision issued Monday afternoon, Seventh District Court Judge David Battey denied a motion to stop CLRSD from moving forward on a proposed multimillion-dollar sewage treatment plant.

"Plaintiffs have not made the requisite showing to warrant a temporary injunction," Battey said.

Hours after the judge's ruling, Miltona Township supervisors voted 2-1 Monday evening to withdraw from CLRSD.

Supervisors Gary Anderson and Donald Henning voted to leave the sanitary district, while Jerry Haggenmiller, who is also CLRSD board chairman, voted to remain.

Judge Battey said in his verdict that he rejected the injunction request because of the severe "hardship" such a motion would place on CLRSD.

"The broad language of the injunction would bar CLRSD from all activities, including the procurement of bids and grant money that would ultimately mitigate the cost of the disputed project," he said. "In fact, enjoining CLRSD's activities could just as likely lead to substantial harm to the plaintiffs in increased costs.

"This factor weighs heavily in favor of denial."

In the lawsuit, the residents had alleged that CLRSD officials violated the legislation that initially created the district by operating for years without a valid comprehensive plan.

Such a plan must be completed, they said, before the district could legally take action on any matter, including approving a plan to build a regional sewer system.

The plaintiffs in the case were Brandon Township residents Beau and Mary Saffel, and Keith and Kathryn Baldwin, who are Miltona Township residents and members of the anti-sewer group, the Citizens League for Environmental and Economic Responsibility (CLEER).

Kathryn Baldwin said while CLEER members are disappointed with the judge's ruling, they are pleased that Miltona Township has left CLRSD.

She said township supervisors listened to the will of most of their constituents by voting to withdraw from the district, something she believes CLRSD officials haven't done.

"The level of trust that needs to be inherent between the district and the people is not there and I don't see that changing," Baldwin said. "The Legislature needs to disband CLRSD. Simply put, the people do not need them."

Formed by legislative action in 2003, CLRSD operated for five years before adopting a comprehensive plan on July 3, 2008.

But that plan was insufficient, plaintiffs claimed, because it was based on a two-page feasibility report and lacked multiple basic legal requirements.

CLRSD has since reorganized its plan from July into a single document that meets all legal requirements for a comprehensive plan.

Battey said that also factored into his decision to deny an injunction.

"Even if the court may have some reservations as to whether the initial comprehensive plan met all technical requirements, the plan likely will be amended in the near future," he said, "rendering plaintiffs' claims moot at that point."

Pat Conroy, CLRSD general manager, said the revised plan was published December 11 on the district's Web site.

A copy of the plan is on file at the Douglas County Library, and individual copies can be purchased from Insty-Prints at 1300 Broadway in Alexandria.

A public hearing on the new proposed comprehensive plan is scheduled for 9 a.m. on January 31 at Leaf Valley Town Hall, after which the CLRSD board plans to vote on the plan during its monthly meeting February 5, also at Leaf Valley Town Hall.