Court Voids Hattiesburg Groundworx Contract
The court terminated the contract between the city of Hattiesburg and Hattiesburg-based water dispersal company Groundworx LLC that was to construct and manage a wastewater dispersal system for the city.
It would spray treated wastewater over about 10,000 acres of land as opposed to discharging it into the Leaf River. The contract was signed in January 2014 and has been the subject of the ongoing disputes between the city and the company throughout the year.
Last month, Forrest County Chancery Judge M. Ronald Doleac ruled that the contract violated due process clauses in federal and state constitutions and in January 2014 ruled that the contract also violated a state prohibition that prevents a government from aiding private businesses.
“I was a little surprised and a little disappointed with the ruling,” City Council President Kim Bradley said in an article published by the Hattiesburg American. “I don’t know that I agree with it, but he’s the judge.”
According to Associated Press, controversy and disputes surrounded the contract for the next seven months regarding the $141 million and the steep sewer rate required to fund the project.
In February 2014, Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree vetoed the steep sewage rate hike intended to help pay off a 30-year bond issue for the $141 million.
In June, Groundworx filed a complaint claiming the city had breached the contract asked that the city pay $6 million for damages and work completed so far if the contract was not enforced.
The city responded by saying that it was pulling out of the agreement and as a result, Groundworx amended its complaint.
However, according to the Hattiesburg American, the recent rulings were based on Hattiesburg resident Thomas Blanton’s cross complaint that argued the contract violated the constitution.
Any plans for an appeal have not been provided at this time.
Council Clerk Debbie Bernardo and Neel-Shaffer engineer Nathan Husman declined commenting on the situation.