In this week’s paper two separate stories discuss the growing dispute over water between the City of Columbus and Cherokee County.

In past years the county as well as several other entities have gotten free water. In the case of the county, multiple services have been provided including dispatch for the police and fire departments for many years, hauling of asphalt as well as help with curb cuts and other services which would amount to much more than the approximately $14,000 in water the county uses each year. Dispatch alone could cost the city $30,000 or more each year — leaving aside the cost of equipment and establishing a dispatch center.

The problem here, in our view, is two-fold. First, much has been handled with gentleman’s agreements or a hand-shake. Second the city took action without speaking to the county first. The county commission is justifiably upset by this — no one likes to be blindsided.

Monday the commission retaliated by voting to begin charging the city for dispatch services and directed Cherokee County Sheriff David Groves to research a proper cost for billing.

This is understandable.

Business between municipalities should never, in this day and age, be handled by hand-shake agreements. We have heard there was a written agreement to provide water to the Law Enforcement Center in return for dispatching and prisoner housing, but the agreement has yet to be produced.

The city and the county need to come to some accord. Either each entity needs to pay its bills or written agreements need to be drawn up as to which services the county will provide in return for a fixed volume of water above which the county will pay the going rate.

The other entities which have been getting free water are a separate issue which we will not discuss at this time, but the city needs to sit down with those entities as well, before issuing a bill — they owe them that much, at least.

We hope this can be worked out to every one’s satisfaction, when the county and another municipality within its borders are feuding whoever wins the taxpayers lose.

— Writing for the Board

Patrick Richardson