It’s encouraging to learn that officials from Coal Township and Northumberland County are engaged, even if indirectly, about a possible settlement to the lawsuit filed by the county 11 months ago regarding the township’s construction permit fees for the new county jail.
We commented early on that to have one municipal body sue another is, more than anything, a burden on taxpayers — particularly those in Coal Township, in this case, whose public money helps pay lawyers on both sides. So, yes, let’s settle it.
That said, we don’t believe the township’s latest offer will be effective in negotiating a settlement. The township suggests a compromise could be reached on an amount owed that both parties feel is fair and the rest would be returned to the county. The catch is that the county would then have to commit the same amount agreed to for the fees as a donation to the township recreation facility that’s under construction.
Unfortunately, the township, as the defendant, isn’t in a position to make such an offer — especially one in which the county is out a lot of money, possible the entire amount of the original permit fee.
Also, while the recreation complex is a great project, organized by the township with hundreds of donated man-hours, contributing county money toward it wouldn’t be fair to taxpayers in the county’s 35 other municipalities.
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Regarding the lawsuit, legal precedent clearly shows the township would likely lose in court, so there is nothing to gain for township taxpayers for this battle to last any longer. At least the township seems to have recognized that through its recent efforts toward compromise.
We encourage the county to formally take up the opportunity to negotiate, even if the recreation contribution doesn’t make sense.