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Rolling Oaks dispute settled

The utility was accused of being behind on payments to its contractor.

By CATHERINE E. SHOICHET
Published January 31, 2007


BEVERLY HILLS - The Houston company that operates Rolling Oaks Utilities has settled its lawsuit against the system's owner.

In a complaint filed in October, Veolia Water North America Operating Services asked for nearly $500,000 and an injunction to freeze the utility's bank accounts and put the system into receivership.

Both parties agreed to dismiss the case last week after resolving payment problems, but they declined to discuss details of the settlement.

"We're certainly happy to state we've worked through our disagreements and settled the lawsuit," Veolia spokeswoman Christie Kaluza said Tuesday. "All payments from the utility are now current."

The dispute between Veolia and Rolling Oaks started in September 2005, when Veolia sent a written notice requesting payment of more than $450,000.

But Rolling Oaks president Ronald J. Collins informed Veolia that his companies "did not have the money to pay for the services" in May, according to the lawsuit.

The suit also said Rolling Oaks Utilities and Beverly Hills Waste Management had "misdirected, mismanaged, misused and/or improperly converted" customer payments.

In May the utility's owner agreed to pay $750,000 to Veolia, according to court records.

Another key part of the dispute was $492,550 the county paid in 2005 to acquire several parcels owned by Beverly Hills Development Corp. during eminent domain proceedings for the expansion of County Road 491.

In the lawsuit,Veolia claimed it held a mortgage on the property and should have received that money.

Veolia also sued the county "for all amounts paid" for the parcels. But that portion of the suit was also dropped after payment problems were resolved, County Attorney Robert "Butch" Battista said Tuesday.

Veolia is the operations, maintenance and management services contractor for Rolling Oaks Utilities, the county's oldest central system, which serves 5,814 water customers and 4,358 wastewater customers in Beverly Hills.

It is also the operations, management and equipment contractor for Beverly Hills Solid Waste Management.

Rolling Oaks vice president Dale Miller declined to comment on details of the settlement Tuesday.

"It was dismissed," he said. "That's all I can tell you."

Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at 860-7309 or cshoichet@sptimes.com