Two candidates for Martinsville City Council discussed an appeal filed by the city against the Henry County Public Service Authority (PSA) and others. (See related story.)
Danny Turner, an incumbent who is seeking reelection, cited difficulties in enforcing the water-sewer agreement and disagreements over who owes what money.
“The city never has enforced the water-sewer agreement that was in place and there’s some questions about whether it’s even enforceable,” he said. “In that agreement, the county agreed to pay for their share of maintenance. So, the county maintains that no, we let them out of the water sewer agreement, so they don’t owe that money.”
The city, on the other hand, believes that the county owes their share of maintenance fees.
“There’s been some small amounts of money from the county to offer to settle, but they haven’t,” Turner said and indicated the case was put on the backburner due to reversion talks.
“We supposedly filed suit for the money. For some reason, it seems like we stopped pursuing it as we were negotiating the reversion agreement,” he said.
Turner supports the city’s appeal.
The county “owes the money. They should be paying it,” Turner said.
The county and the PSA are separate entities, but share some employees.
Turner said he also believes that the PSA is staying afloat thanks to Martinsville.
“The county is the benefactor. Martinsville saved the PSA at a time where they’d opened up water facilities and then NAFTA hit, and all their customers left,” he said of the North American Free Trade Agreement that heralded the closing of many manufacturing operations in both areas.
“If it weren’t for the City of Martinsville, the PSA would’ve been broke a long time ago,” Turner said, and added that he is looking forward to a system that will benefit both localities.
“Maybe that’s something that could be looked at in the future, is maybe the city providing sewer service and the county providing water service. I think that might, in a merged system, I think we can actually help each other,” he said.
Aaron Rawls, who is among the slate of candidates for city council, noted that while he is a private citizen, and therefore has not seen any contracts or documentation, “it honestly looks preposterous. It signals the terrible notion to anyone who might want to work with Martinsville. Form a partnership with us and it goes bad, we’ll sue you,” Rawls said.
“I do not think that bodes well for revitalization efforts in Martinsville. I think that people will be scared to get into any arrangement with us because the first thing we do is turn around and sue people,” Rawls said.
In his view, the appeal is another example of the city’s poor leadership and lack of consideration for how its actions affect relationships and reputation — a stance Rawls has campaigned on since the beginning.
“That’s not how you treat partners, customers, whatever the county’s relationship is in this, and it sounds to me like they’re kind of part of both. You don’t sue someone who decides they don’t want to work with you anymore or buy from you anymore. That’s not how you treat people who are in a relationship with you,” he said.
Rawls also noted that Martinsville is using the same law firm for this legal issue as for reversion.
“I know we retained another attorney at Troutman Pepper, which is the same law firm that we use for our reversion legal work. And it seems to me, of all these things Martinsville is getting itself into, the only people who are profiting by Martinsville’s behavior are the attorneys,” Rawls said.
Rawls said the city is, “running money out of our community, fighting stupid battles.”
LC Jones, also among the candidates, did not respond to a media request. Council members Tammy Pearson, Chad Martin, and Jennifer Bowles did not respond to interview requests. Bowles also is an incumbent council member seeking reelection.
Mayor Kathy Lawson deferred questions to City Attorney Eric Monday or Public Information Officer Kendall Davis, citing pending litigation.