Blaine has filed a lawsuit against its much smaller neighbor Lexington in an attempt to reach a resolution in a long-running and contentious dispute over a water distribution system that has been jointly owned by both cities for more than 50 years.
Blaine is asking the court to declare that an agreement between the two cities to share the water system no longer be in effect. The city is also asking the court to force Lexington to give Blaine access to a water main that it built but resides within Lexington's borders. And ultimately Blaine seeks permission to separate its water system from Lexington's, according to the lawsuit filed in Anoka County District Court.
"We are not suing for damages, but legal clarification over who has access to the water infrastructure and who owns it," said Blaine Mayor Tim Sanders. "We are not trying to be a difficult neighbor, but we are not okay with the status quo."
The bottom line, Sanders said, is that Lexington's water is inferior and Blaine no longer wants it mixing with its water. Lexington has accused Blaine of trying to take over the system.
The two north metro cities appeared to be headed to mediation last winter, but that never materialized, Sanders said, which prompted Blaine to file the lawsuit.
"I will not allow Blaine to bully Lexington because we are a smaller city," Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy said in a statement. "Lexington has made several fair offers to the city of Blaine, such as purchasing their water at a wholesale rate or giving them our water system and billing our residents directly. Unfortunately, Blaine has turned down both offers and continues to push for water system separation despite the fact both cities jointly built out the interconnected infrastructure over the last several decades."
Lexington is currently looking at several options for its water system, including building a treatment plant, the mayor said.
The flap has been brewing for years, but heightened after Blaine spent $40 million to improve water quality, including opening a fourth water treatment facility.
Blaine terminated a Joint Powers Agreement with Lexington in 1987, and a new one-year agreement was enacted the following year, according to the suit. No new agreement has ever been signed. Blaine contests in the lawsuit that there is not currently an active contractual agreement between the cities. Rather, the cities have had a long-standing practice to share water.
Blaine supplies water to Lexington most of the year, but Lexington turns on its well during the summer months and sends water back to Blaine. But Sanders said Blaine no longer wants Lexington's water because it is untreated and does not meet federal and state environmental standards. Murphy said Lexington's water is safe.
The suit also asks the court to give Blaine permission to install valves or meters at 15 interconnection points to monitor the amount of water flowing back and forth, or close them altogether. That has been another point of contention in the dispute, Sanders said.
"We can't keep having the same conversation for 40 years," Sanders said. "I hope a resolution can be reached here quickly."