Home > Column, Local Government, State Government > The Logan County Disputed Zone Part II

The Logan County Disputed Zone Part II

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I enjoy fielding help requests from members of the local constituency. Many have contacted my office when they’ve encountered a problem with state government, and in some cases we have been able to quickly solve the problem. Things get a bit more complicated when the problem lies at the confluence of multiple – and sometimes warring – government entities.

State Reprenstative Jason Murphey

State Representative Jason Murphey

Such was the case a few years ago when I received a call from a constituent who was trapped in Logan County’s disputed zone, which I wrote about in my article last week (hd31.org/631). In that article I described the 10-year legal battle between the City of Guthrie and Logan County Rural Water District Number 1.

State government was pressuring the constituent to sign on with a water/wastewater utility provider, or face the possibility of thousands in fines. Wanting to stay out of trouble, the constituent contacted the rural water district but they did not provide services in that area. The City did provide services in the area but would not allow the constituent to sign up as a customer because they feared it would undermine their position in the ongoing lawsuit. 

The constituent and others in that same area sought approval from the county to transfer from jurisdiction of the rural water district to the jurisdiction of the city. State law allows for this common sense transfer to take place. However, the rural water department filed a legal action to stop the transfer. 

If being trapped between the conflicting policies of the four government entities wasn’t enough, this person now had to use an attorney and go to court. This evolved into a satellite lawsuit for the larger legal war.

While the impact on this person and others in their situation has been especially egregious, many others have unknowingly been affected. The legal war has been funded by and taken a heavy toll on the water rate payers. A 2013 audit showed that $314,283 or almost one quarter of the revenue of Rural Water District 1 was tied up in legal and professional fees. This compares to the neighboring Rural Water District 2 which spent $12,395 or 5% of revenues on these fees during this same time period. During the summer of 2012, district 1 instituted a significant and extremely progressive rate hike which generated complaints to my office from those whose monthly bills suddenly amounted to hundreds of dollars.

Those who live within the City of Guthrie are also potentially impacted by the illegal battle. While the City’s recent punitive water rate increase of approximately 30% might not be directly attributable to the legal war, the potential for a property tax increase has been discussed as a possible mechanism for paying the settlement if the City loses the 10-year-old legal fight.

Next week I will end this series of articles by detailing the root cause of the problem and describing how very few individuals who benefit at the expense of the many described in this article and what can be done to stop the madness.

Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions. 

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