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Sanitary Dist. of the City of Hammond v. Town of Griffith

Court of Appeals of Indiana

July 13, 2015

Sanitary District of the City of Hammond, Indiana and the City of Hammond, Indiana, [1] Appellants-Defendants,
v.
Town of Griffith, Indiana; Town of Highland, Indiana, et al.; and City of Whiting, Indiana, et al., Appellees-Plaintiffs, and City of Whiting, Indiana, et al., Cross-Appellant-Plaintiff,
v.
City of Hammond, Indiana, Cross-Appellee-Defendant

Appeal from the Lake Superior Court. The Honorable John M. Sedia, Judge. Cause Nos. 45D01-1309-PL-79, 45D01-1309-PL-83, 45D01-1309-PL-85.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT, SANITARY DISTRICT OF THE CITY OF HAMMOND, INDIANA: A. Scott Chinn, Jane Dall Wilson, Timothy J. Moriarty, Faegre Baker & Daniels LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana; Joseph P. Allegretti, Sanitary District of the City of Hammond, Munster, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR CROSS-APPELLEE, CITY OF HAMMOND, INDIANA: Kristina C. Kantar, City of Hammond Law Department, Hammond, Indiana; Kevin C. Smith, Smith Sersic, Munster, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE, TOWN OF GRIFFITH, INDIANA, ET AL.: Nicholas K. Kile, Bart A. Karwath, Barnes & Thornburg LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE, TOWN OF HIGHLAND, INDIANA, ET AL.: Brian W. Welch, Margaret M. Christensen, Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana; Robert F. Tweedle, Law Offices of Robert F. Tweedle, Highland, Indiana; Rhett L. Tauber, Jared R. Tauber Tauber Law Offices, Schererville, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE/CROSS-APPELLANTS, CITY OF WHITING, INDIANA, ET AL.: Michael A. Wukmer, Thomas K. Downs, Mark R. Alson, Audrey K. Hagedorn, Ice Miller LLP, Indianapolis, Indiana; William T. Enslen, Enslen, Enslen & Matthews, Hammond, Indiana.

Kirsch, Judge. Crone, J., concurs. Robb, J., dissents with separate opinion.

OPINION

Kirsch, Judge.

[¶1] This case focuses on whether the Sanitary District of the City of Hammond, Indiana (" the District" ) had the authority to cancel three long-term wastewater services contracts between it and the Town of Griffith, Indiana, the Town of Highland, Indiana, and the City of Whiting, Indiana (collectively " the Customer Communities" ). Claiming that the contracts had become financially untenable and that the Customer Communities would not agree to reform the contracts, the District made a formal finding under Indiana Code section 5-22-17-5 that funds were not appropriated or otherwise available to support the continuation of performance of the contracts and passed a resolution cancelling the contracts. The Customer Communities sued the District and filed motions for summary judgment and judgment on the pleadings. The trial court granted the motions and held that the District exceeded its statutory authority when it passed the resolution, that the resolution purporting to cancel the contracts had no effect, and that the contracts were to remain in full force. The trial court ordered the parties to arbitrate all disputes arising under the contracts. The District appeals, raising the following restated issues for our review:

I. Whether the trial court erred in holding that the District was not statutorily authorized to cancel the wastewater services contracts pursuant to Indiana Code section 5-22-17-5(a); and
II. Whether the trial court erred in ordering the parties into arbitration rather than conducting judicial review where there is no dispute as to performance under the Treatment Agreements.

[¶2] We affirm.[2]

Facts and Procedural History[3]

[¶3] The District is a municipal corporation and statutorily-created special taxing district, which is comprised of the City of Hammond (" Hammond" ) and the Town of Munster. The District operates a publicly-owned treatment works facility for the collection and treatment of sanitary sewage wastewater. In 1994, the District entered into individual wastewater collection and treatment agreements with the Town of Griffith (" Griffith" ) and the Town of Highland (" Highland" ) and, in 1995, with the City of Whiting (" Whiting" ) (we will refer to the agreements collectively as " the Treatment Agreements" ). Under the Treatment Agreements, the District accepted and treated wastewater from each of the Customer Communities. The current terms of each contract expire on December ...


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