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County seeks dismissal of city storrmwater action

Feb. 10—An attorney for Pittsburg County commissioners is asking the courts to dismiss a city petition related to a dispute over unpaid stormwater fees.

Attorney Chris Collins, of Oklahoma City, filed the county's response to the city of McAlester's petition in which the city is asking the courts for a declaratory judgment to force Pittsburg County to pay the disputed fees at the Southeast Expo Center.

In the response filed in Pittsburg County District Court, Collins offered a series of defenses on behalf of Pittsburg County commissioners, including:

—His contention that the city has not complied with pleading requirements in not stating the amount of relief requested from the county.

—His legal argument that the city's petition fails to state a claim upon which relief may be requested.

Collins also contends Pittsburg County commissioners were acting within their rights.

"Any actions by the County or its officers were in compliance with and under authority granted it under state law as a government entity using its police powers to protect the public welfare, safety and health of its citizens at all times..." Collins said in court documents.

The commissioners' attorney also said the county reserves the right to amend its answer to use additional defenses, affirmative defenses, crossclaims and counterclaims as the court discovery process continues.

Collins then asked that the city's court action seeking a declaratory judgment against the county "be dismissed with its attorney fees and costs."

Pittsburg County commissioners have adamantly refused to pay the stormwater fees the city of McAlester has billed the Expo Center. They contend all the stormwater from the Expo Center flows into a nearby creek and away from the city, thereby not utilizing the city's stormwater system.

The city of McAlester maintains that's a moot point and since the Southeast Exp Center is in McAlester city limits, the county should pay the fees.

In his court action on behalf of the county commissioners, Collins said "The County admits that any stormwater generated at the Expo does not enter the city's stormwater drainage system but rather into Sandy Creek, and accordingly, the county does not contribute to the city's stormwater management difficulties.

"The County further avers and alleges that there is no infrastructure associated with stormwater management on the premises owned by the County," Collins said in court documents, in reference to the Expo Center property. County commissioners pay stormwater fees on other county properties in the city, such as the Pittsburg County Courthouse, for example,

The city of McAlester began billing Pittsburg County for stormwater fees, after the county took over the Expo Center operations from the city in 2021.

County commissioners have refused to pay the Expo Center stormwater fees, maintaining their contention that all of the stormwater from the property flows into a nearby creek and away from the city, never utilizing the city's stormwater management system.

Since the city's court action doesn't state the amount the city maintains it is owed in unpaid Expo Center stormwater fees, the News-Capital recently asked Pittsburg County Clerk Hope Trammell how much the city has billed the county since the dispute began.

It totaled $29,260 through Dec. 17, 2023, which was due Jan. 20, 2024, Trammell said after totaling the numbers.

In the city's original filing of the court petition against the Pittsburg County Board of Commissioners, McAlester City Attorney John T. Hammons asked the court to render a judgment and order against the county on two points:

—Declare that the city is authorized under the law to impose the stormwater fee upon the Expo Center and that the county is obligated to pay it.

—Order "such further and different relief as this court may determine to be just and proper."

Further court action in the case is pending.