Editorial: End of long running water dispute a good thing for county

Dec. 25, 2012 @ 11:21 PM

There is harmony on the waterfront at long last, and the community got a Christmas present from two of its local governments. The Sevier County Commission approved new water agreements with Pigeon Forge and Sevierville last week, ending a long-running, contentious and sometimes bitter battle between the county and cities.

The county had been offering water service to some residents using water provided by the cities. It voted several years ago to create its own water department to better serve customers. While the water will still come from the cities, the county will take over responsibility for the pipelines and delivery of water. As the county reviewed the agreements, it found that the cities had not been paying money owned under the earlier contracts, which were signed in 1997. That led to a squabble that resulted in a lawsuit between Sevierville and the county.

The county was eventually able to resolve its differences with both cites, and last week the county commissioners approved two new agreements that call for the cities to provide water to metered locations. The county will be responsible for water services from those locations to other areas.

“It’s been a long and very difficult period to get to (this) point,” County Mayor Larry Waters said. Indeed it has, but the resolution, even after months of bickering and inaction, is a relief to all parties involved. Presumably all sides gave a little to reach a compromise, even if that action has come to symbolize weakness and ineffectiveness to some people. In fact, compromise and give-and-take are what have moved this country forward, from the courthouse to the statehouse to the halls of Congress.

Commissioner Warren Hurst, who chairs the county’s water committee, said the new agreements mean the county can move ahead with providing water to residents who have not been able to get that service before, although it is not practicable or feasible to provide service to everybody. Still, the end of this legal dispute does uncork the water bottle and allow movement outside the cities so water service can be provided to some.

Good work by all parties to get this thing fixed.