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With no settlement, sewer-fee trial looms

Longstanding hopes for a settlement between the city of Marathon and residents of the Key RV mobile-home park over sewer fees appear to have gone by the wayside.

Key RV's homeowners association sued the city in October 2008. It alleges discrimination in assessing the park residents more than $1 million combined to connect to the system, which is still under construction.

City Attorney John Herin told the Keynoter the residents of the mile marker 50 park shot down what several City Council members said was a final offer in lieu of a trial. The offer was made after a two-hour closed session of the council in late March.

Several versions of an offer bounced back and forth between city and Key RV attorneys, but no agreement was reached. One was reportedly agreed upon that would see the city refurbish and take ownership of the park's existing waste system.

"The city wanted oversight as to how they spent the money to make sure the system they put in was an up-to-date legitimate system. I think that's what killed the deal, frankly," Councilman Dick Ramsay said.

"They rejected it outright. We're headed to court," Herin said. He said the trial is tentatively scheduled to begin in September in front of Acting Circuit Court Judge Ruth Becker.

City Manager Roger Hernstadt said Key RV attorney David Paul Horan hasn't contacted the city since the park rejected the city's final offer.

"We sent them something. It wasn't a matter of them saying we don't like this amount, they said, 'No, thank you,' and didn't offer anything as a counter offer, so I assume they decided to go to court," he said. Hernstadt added he still believes hope remains for a settlement.

"There still is an opportunity for settlement in between now and when the judge makes a decision," he said. Horan did not return two calls for comment Tuesday.

The lawsuit essentially boils down to whether it's legal to charge Key RV's individual owners the same sewer fees as other equivalent dwelling units in the city based on the form of ownership. The mobile-home park switched to a condominium form of ownership in 2004.

Single-family homeowners in Marathon pay $5,700 per EDU, which is what Key RV residents were slated to pay. There's also reportedly been wrangling over who will install and be responsible for maintaining sewer lines at the park.

Ramsay has been pushing for a settlement for quite some time, to no avail. He now says there's "no resolution on the horizon."

"I feel personally they had a legitimate good offer that I advised them to consider. They had a meeting of their board and weighed all the pros and cons. Their decision was they felt they needed to go to court and present their case," Ramsay said. "I tried to explain the downside if they don't prevail, which has major consequences."