H2GO’s proposed lawsuit settlement declined by Leland; Belville, H2Go react

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H2GO building in Leland (Photo: WWAY)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The Town of Leland has declined H2GO’s proposed settlement that would have ended an ongoing lawsuit between Leland, Belville, and H2GO.

Leland Mayor Brende Bozeman sent a letter on Friday to H2GO Commission Chair Ron Jenkins, as well as H2GO’s Executive Director Bob Walker and Belville Mayor Mike Allen.

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Bozeman said Town Council supports the immediate construction of the aquifer-based reverse osmosis plant.

“We support building an aquifer-based reverse osmosis plant if it is the product of regional cooperation and Leland and its citizens are protected from future unlawful or unfair conduct. This would be achieved by the previously proposed regional compromise plan that representatives of Belville, the Sanitary District and Leland discussed and tentatively agreed to last year,” said Bozeman in a news release. “We hope to reengage in a dialogue with Belville and H2GO officials to finalize the regional compromise plan, so this matter can be resolved quickly with a solution that addresses everyone’s interests.”

In the letter, Bozeman said the lawsuit is about much more than an aquifer-based reverse osmosis plant and is about ‘the Rule of Law and local governments acting lawfully and ethically.’

In 2017, after the November election but before new H2GO members were sworn in, H2GO signed over all its assets to the Town of Belville.

“The Town of Leland cannot take the risk of similar misconduct recurring and fells obligated to protect itself, its citizens, and its future from that risk,” Bozeman wrote in the letter.

Leland seeks a regional compromise that: (1) assures the three local go vernments in the lawsuit will not face these circumstances again and (2) allows the entities to grow together through partnership and cooperation.

Instead, the Town of Leland encourages the Sanitary District and Belville to approve the Town of Leland’s settlement agreement proposed in 2019.

When reached by phone, Belville Mayor Mike Allen said, “We deeply regret Leland has rejected the offer H2GO made. Thought it was a fair and equitable settlement. It was everything Leland had asked for. The main thing we all want is to provide clean, safe drinking water to Leland and the Sanitary District.”

Allen said the board will meet with their attorney on Monday and will make a decision on which steps the Town of Belville will take, which could include going back to court and dropping its appeal and returning the assets to H2GO.

H2GO also released a statement. It read in part:

Leland’s letter states that all parties should consider a previous annexation proposal that was already rejected by the former H2GO Board, which had an anti-RO majority. Former Chairman Jeff Gerken publicly stated in October 2019 that because Belville was against the annexation proposal cited today by Leland, “we have no alternative but to declare that proposed solution dead.” Leland’s press release today states there was a tentative agreement between the parties. No such agreement ever took place.

“We’re disappointed to hear that the Town of Leland has declined our settlement proposal.  Both H2GO and the Town of Belville believed it was a fair proposal that completely connected with the ruling of the Court,” said H2GO Chairman Ron Jenkins. “Leland’s leaders should be ashamed of themselves. It’s stunning to think they would put money over public health.  Our proposal provided $800,000 to go towards the payment of almost all of their legal fees.  For this to remain as a reason to prevent the construction of the RO plant from moving forward is shameful.”

H2GO’s board is scheduled to meet Monday. That’s when they will discuss how they will move forward.

For more on the history over the battle for H2GO, click here.