Falls Church City and Fairfax Water to Enter Mediation
By FALLS CHURCH CITY OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS
and FALLS CHURCH TIMES STAFF
October 24, 2012
The City of Falls Church, Fairfax Water, and Fairfax County have agreed to mediation over terms for a possible sale of the Falls Church Water Utility to Fairfax Water. Magistrate Judge Theresa Carroll Buchanan set the mediation for November 8. Mediation was not mandated by the court, but rather mutually agreed upon by all parties prior to requesting a mediator.
“This is a good-faith effort by the City to continue our long history of regional cooperation,” said Vice Mayor David Snyder. “The City will enter mediation in the best interests of its water customers, taxpayers, and utility employees.”
“Our goal is to find a mutually acceptable resolution that recognizes the City’s investments in its Water Utility assets that have provided safe, dependable drinking water for more than 80 years,” said Ira Kaylin, Council Member and member of the City Public Utility Commission.
The City met with Fairfax County and Fairfax Water in July to discuss a possible sale of the City’s system. The parties did not agree on the terms of sale and the negotiations ended in early August.
The City’s U.S. District Court case regarding Fairfax County’s water ordinance has been continued to December 6 to allow for mediation. That ordinance asserted that Fairfax had the right to set water rates for Fairfax residents who receive Falls Church water, and Falls Church City had sued to overturn it.
The mediation is not an arbitration, which means that it’s possible no deal will be struck. Neither side is required to accept any recommendations or suggestions offered by the mediator. But it may provide the ability for the two sides to reach an agreement, by encouraging each side to offer better terms than were offered previously, and because the mediator is an independent party who can “tell you where your argument isn’t as good as you think it is,” a source familiar with the process said.
By Stephen Siegel
October 25, 2012