Judge rules against Camden in dispute with sewer/water authority

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Joseph Slights

CAMDEN — The Town of Camden can’t demand a $27,000 fee from the sewer and water authority for construction of a million-gallon water storage tank to service residents, a judge ruled Monday.

In a 14-page Chancery Court opinion, Vice Chancellor Joseph R. Slights III determined the Camden-Wyoming Sewer and Water Authority was exempt by Delaware Code from what amounted to a tax sought by the municipality.

The authority had earlier requested that the town waive any building permit fees associated with the storage tank’s construction at 3680 Upper King Road, which the municipality declined to do.

The town issued a stop work order on April 18, 2016 and the Authority filed a lawsuit on May 17, 2016.

Established in 1962, the authority operates the water system and infrastructure for Camden and Wyoming, generating operating fees for its services. The two town councils each appoint three residents to sit on the board.

The vice chancellor’s determination rested on whether the money sought was classified as a tax or fee, according to the opinion.

Ultimately, the town did not show that it expended any services or funds for the water tank, other than police patrols in the area, the order said. The town’s clerk and code enforcer and building inspector did not “quantify the amount of time, effort, administrative resources, etc. … dedicated to the Water Storage Tank Project,” according to Vice Chancellor Slights.

The police patrols required were minimal, the ruling stated, and any costs were “at least not to the tune of roughly $27,000 in additional expenditures,” Vice Chancellor Slights found.

The town’s regular contract engineer did not work on the tank, the opinion said, and the town “heavily deferred” to the Authority’s own engineer.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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