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Sudden death delays water talks

The sudden death of one city’s attorney could delay the latest attempt by Park Hills and Desloge to iron out their differences involving the water system.

Desloge recently asked Park Hills to again try to resolve their dispute, which is the subject of a lawsuit. On Thursday, Park Hills officials asked their lead attorney in the case, John Oliver of Cape Girardeau, to notify Desloge that they had accepted the offer to work together.

Friday morning, Park Hills received a phone call saying that Oliver had died suddenly in his sleep Thursday evening.

“It was quite a shock,” said Scott Killen, who also represents Park Hills in the dispute. “Right now we’ve got some issues to deal with here, but the City of Park Hills will hopefully get something done in the near future.”

Because of Friday’s circumstances, Killen said he could not give a timeline for the joint meeting.

Despite the delay, the decision to reopen negotiations is a positive step in relations between the two cities.

“There have been several meetings in the past,” Park Hills City Administrator John Kennedy said. “Both mayors have expressed wanting to work this out.”

In April 2000, Desloge voters approved a $12.85 million revenue bond to build a new water system. The city budgeted an additional $1.3 million dollars in the recent TIF for a new system. However, Desloge could not build its own system until receiving Department of Natural Resources (DNR) approval. Initially, DNR said it would not issue that approval until the two cities resolved the pending litigation.

Last month, the DNR notified Desloge in writing that it had removed that condition.

The letter stated that Desloge may make final arrangements for financing the project and also may instruct the city’s engineer to prepare detailed plans and specifications for the new water system.

While campaigning for the mayoral position prior to the April election, Desloge Mayor David Kater had said he was in favor of sitting down with Park Hills officials to see if the two cities could settle their differences.

“I look forward to meeting with them,” Kater said. “Hopefully, we can all come to an agreement on the issues at hand.”

Desloge City Administrator Eric Wiederhold is also looking forward to meeting with Park Hills officials to see if there is a resolution.

“This is a welcomed meeting and we look forward to meeting with them on this,” Wiederhold said.

Park Hills Mayor John Clark also said during his recent campaign for re-election that he was willing to sit down with Desloge and again try to come to an agreement.

Wiederhold said if the two cities don’t resolve their differences, Desloge will still move forward with constructing its own water system.

The Desloge Board of Aldermen approved hiring Metropolitan Engineering on May 9 to produce plans for a new water system.

“The engineering proposal by Metropolitan Engineering is the first deliberate step following the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) recent approval of our engineering report,” Wiederhold said.

Kennedy said the attorneys, not city officials, would work together to finalize a meeting date and place.

“Settlement conferences of any kind should be handled by the attorneys,” Kennedy said, adding that city officials in Park Hills were pleased to receive the recent invitation to resolve the matter.

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