Sister Bay to File Suit against Liberty Grove over Ownership of Waste Water Plant

The Sister Bay Board of Trustees has begun the process to file a lawsuit against the Town of Liberty Grove seeking a declaratory judgment regarding the ownership of the Sister Bay Waste Water Plant.

The village has always asserted that it owns the plant. The town wished to have a “Utilities Commission” own and operate the plant, or to own a separate plant. After several years of negotiations, the plant was built and an agreement reached between the village and town. The town obtained ownership of “capacity” in the plant, but not ownership of the physical assets. The first Intergovernmental Agreement expired in 2008. In 2011, after years of discussions on ownership by the village’s Utility Committee, the village and town created a Negotiating Committee to update the Intergovernmental Agreement and resolve the ownership dispute. A successor agreement, addressing operations only, was approved in 2013 that stated the town had the right to litigate the ownership issue.

During the period 2014-2016, the village and town have held meetings and exchanged letters on the ownership issue. The meetings and letters resulted in the impasse that still exists. Pursuant to the terms of the Intergovernmental Agreement covering disputes, the village recommended an impartial mediator (who was selected by the chair of the State Dispute Resolution Committee); the town rejected the mediator.

After spending most of 2015 and 2016 discussing the matter, the village board believed the only way to settle the dispute was to seek a declaratory judgment. The village board has directed village Attorney Randy Nesbitt to file a notice of claim on the Town of Liberty Grove as the first step in the lawsuit process. The village board only took this step after all reasonable efforts were made to reach an amicable agreement. The village will continue to provide utilities services to town residents according to the terms of the operating agreement.

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