Lawsuit originated from Baxter bid

Oct. 26, 2013 @ 06:26 PM

Granville County officials’ attempt to secure a global biotechnology company in its research park prompted conflicts between the county and Oxford that has escalated into a civil lawsuit against Granville County and the City of Henderson.

The central claim of the lawsuit filed by the city of Oxford involves a Utility Sales Agreement that allows Granville to purchase from Henderson 1.5 million gallons of water per day intended exclusively for the future tenants of Triangle North Granville.

Baxter International ultimately chose to locate in a site outside of Atlanta.

“Granville County approached us when Baxter wanted to locate to the research park,” said John Zollicoffer Jr., Henderson’s attorney. “Oxford and Granville couldn’t reach an agreement and they needed water for Baxter to consider the location.”

Zollicoffer said the agreement between Henderson and Granville was made to attract the company.

“We were trying to salvage a deal with Baxter,” Zollicoffer said.

The lawsuit filed on Aug. 27 claims the deal between Henderson and Granville County violated an amendment to the Kerr Lake Regional Water System agreement that states Oxford has the right to control all taps and collect revenues from all customers located in Granville.

The regional water system agreement was established in 1973 between Oxford, Henderson and Warren County.

Randy Hemann, Oxford city manager, said there were negotiations between Oxford and Granville when Baxter initially expressed interest in Triangle North Granville. But he said those negotiations didn’t result in an agreement.

Hemann said he could not provide any further information about the negotiations because of the pending litigation.

Jim Wrenn Jr., attorney for Granville County, said he received information that Oxford was unable to supply the amount of water Baxter requested.

“It was communicated to Henderson that they didn’t have sufficient water,” said Wrenn, who will represent both Henderson and Granville in the lawsuit because the Utilities Sales Agreement holds Granville responsible for protecting Henderson from any litigation.

The original allocation in the regional water system provides 60 percent to Henderson and 20 percent to both Oxford and Warren County.

“From the beginning, Henderson had a significantly larger allocation from the regional water system than Oxford,” Wrenn said.

Oxford Mayor Jackie Sergent confirmed that discussions between Oxford and Granville took place, but she could not disclose why an agreement wasn’t reached.

“The most important thing is that we have an agreement and it clearly states that Oxford has right to sell Kerr Lake Regional Water System water in Granville County,” Sergent said.

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.