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Tacoma: Supreme Court rules against city in hydrants case

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on Jan. 26, 2012 at 11:31 am with No Comments »
January 26, 2012 3:02 pm

Washington’s Supreme Court ruled today the City of Tacoma is responsible for providing and paying for maintenance of water hydrants in Fircrest, University Place and Federal Way under franchise agreements between the municipalities.

“We hold that the franchise agreements contractually require Tacoma to provide and maintain the hydrants in the Municipalities’ jurisdictions and to bear the cost,” Justice Susan Owens wrote in the court’s unanimous opinion.

(Here’s the court’s complete ruling.)

Among other things, the court also ruled Tacoma was not entitled to attorney fees.

Under franchise agreements for water service, Tacoma Public Utilities provided water hydrants in each of the cities and for years charged ratepayers a general hydrant fee to pay for them.

But following a 2008 court ruling involving a Seattle Public Utilities case, Tacoma ceased billing ratepayers the hydrant fee and began directly charging each municipality for the costs.  The municipalities refused to pay, leading to the court case. A trial court judge sided against Tacoma, which appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

We’ve put in a call to Tacoma City Attorney Elizabeth Pauli for comment,  and to find out how much the ruling will cost the city.  TNT courts reporter Adam Lynn is working on the full story for tomorrow’s newspaper.

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