PB Wastewater manager concerned over delay in agreement with Liberty

Pine Bluff Wastewater Utility is in an unwanted holding pattern as it waits for the new operator of White Hall’s sewer system to finalize a contract, according to officials.

Pine Bluff Wastewater Manager Ken Johnson said Friday that despite the continued lack of a written agreement, his company has continued to process the sewage pumped from White Hall since the sale of that municipality’s water and sewer system to Liberty Utilities for $4.5 million on May 30.

Johnson said that in the interim until the formal agreement is finalized, he sent Liberty a letter that includes a portion of the old agreement between Pine Bluff Wastewater and the city of White Hall.

The section of the old agreement that was delivered to Liberty concerns provisions for termination of the relationship between the parties if either side fails to fully comply with terms.

If the agreement were to be terminated, the sewer connection between the two entities would to be removed and monetary damages would be assessed if the connection is not removed and White Hall does not treat its own sewage.

“We need to have a written agreement with Liberty just as we did with the city of White Hall,” Johnson said. “The contract lists the requirements for discharge into our system that Liberty is expected to abide by, the same as we require with all of our customers.”

Johnson said that he wishes that he had been given advance notice of the sale so that we would have had the necessary paperwork ready.

“Liberty filled out an application with us once we learned that the sale had occurred,” Johnson said. “So we had no continuity-of-service agreement in place.”

Johnson said that Pine Bluff Wastewater is looking forward to continuing to serve White Hall and to working with Liberty.

“We just need to have the proper paperwork so that all legal requirements are met,” Johnson said.

Liberty Utilities Interim General Manager Martin Garlant said Friday that his firm’s attorneys are still reviewing the documents associated with the Pine Bluff Wastewater agreement.

“We have no issues with the transaction or with Pine Bluff Wastewater,” Garlant said Friday afternoon. “Our attorneys are going over every little word to make sure that everybody’s interests are protected — our and theirs.”

Garlant said that he understood Johnson’s frustration with not being notified of the sale in time to get the legal paperwork ready when Liberty took control of White Hall’s sewer system.

“I understand his position but I can’t speak to how things were done because I was not in place at that time,” Garlant said.

Garlant said that in terms of the guidelines for review of a standard contract, he does not believe that an inordinate amount of time has passed since Liberty began to work on its side of the agreement.

Garlant did not have an expected date of completion.