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Nitro settles case with former city employee

By Bridget May

Nitro City Council members met in a closed-door, executive session Monday to discuss a proposed settlement in a lawsuit brought by a city employee.

Sandra Saunders brought the formal complaint alleging harassment and sexual assault in September 2011.

"I am happy with the settlement that was offered to me," Saunders said. "I can walk out of here with my head held high and know that I've done a very good job."

Council members voted to accept the proposed settlement but would not comment on the matter. Details will not be released until a judge signs the agreement.

Saunders, whose duties included putting together the city calendar and collecting past due municipal bills, agreed to drop all claims of sexual harassment with prejudice, Nitro Mayor Dave Casebolt said.

This means she cannot bring the sexual harassment claims before a court again, he said. 

Saunders did receive a settlement from the city based on payment issues, he said. She was seeking back pay for work she did for other city departments. She also received a settlement because the employment issues were not dealt with through the civil service process, Casebolt said.

Casebolt would not comment on how much money was involved in the settlement. Casebolt did confirm that no money was awarded based on the sexual harassment claim.  

As part of the agreement, Saunders said she would no longer be employed by the city. She had worked for Nitro for about five years when she lodged the complaint.

She said the settlement is the "end to a year and a half of turmoil and I hope the city learned their lesson."

Council members also passed an ordinance amendment and re-enactment establishing rates and services provided by the Nitro Regional Waste Water Utility on first reading.

The utility board adopted a petition asking the city council to consider a rate increase for the use of the city sewer system, said Samme L. Gee of Jackson Kelley.

The amendment to the original 2005 ordinance proposes a two-phase rate increase.

The first phase is an 11.5 percent increase that will become effective in February 2013. It covers the increases in operational costs that have occurred since the last rate increase.

The second portion is a 7 percent increase that would take effect one year after the first rate increase and will be used to cover a project under consideration by the utility board.

"The first increase is to meet our bond rating and the second increase is to do these projects," Mayor Dave Casebolt said.

The proposed project will extend sewer services to Blakes Creek and Eastwood Acres, adding 95 new customers, said Jessie Parker with S&S Engineering. The aging Pump Station No. 8 will be replaced, and new equipment, such as a sewer cleaner, dump truck and backhoe will be purchased.

The funds will also cover emergency work on Pump Station No. 8, which is the major pump station near Pilot Truck Stop that receives flows from Nitro and former Rock Branch PSD areas.

The estimated cost is $8,350,000, and will be financed by the state Department of Environmental Protection's Clean Water Revolving Fund for 20 years at 3 percent interest.

"We anticipate being completed by August 2015," Parker said.

The ordinance also provides for a security deposit to be assessed by the utility board to cover costs if a customer moves and does not pay his or her final bill.


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