Dueling deeds slow Charlestown water sale

Charlestown water woes

CHARLESTOWN, Ind. (WHAS11) – An Indiana city's sale of its public utility may be in hot water.

In an effort to clean up its water the City of Charlestown agreed to sell its water system in July, but they may not own part of the land they agreed to sell.

Since the City of Charlestown entered into negotiations to sell its water system to Indiana-American Water attorney David Agnew has represented a group calling itself No Outsourcing Water. A group against the deal.

“We had some questions about why the sale was necessary in order to fix the water quality problems,” said Agnew.

However, since that time larger issues have been brought to the forefront such as whether or not Charlestown owns the wells at all.

“I don’t understand. If the city owns all of the real estate that it uses to get water, why do they have easements form 1978, 1992, and years subsequent to that from the DNR for the same property that they claim to own?” said Agnew.

In the 1990s the US Army deeded the property to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources after closing the old munitions plant, but the Clark County Recorder has a deed from 1939 clearly giving ownership to the City of Charlestown.

“There is a 75 by 75-foot square that may actually be the property of the City of Charleston, but if you look at the maps, their well field extends well beyond that,” said Agnew.

“Charlestown holds record title to the well field and has held continuous ownership since 1937, well before the U.S. Army owned the surrounding property,” said Charlestown attorney David McGimpsey.  “The source of Charlestown’s title is a warranty deed dated April 7, 1937 and recorded on August 23, 1939, in the Office of the Recorder of Clark County, Ind., in Deed Book 135, Page 96. Charlestown is unaware of why another entity would claim ownership over its well field when Charlestown has maintained uninterrupted ownership of the well field since 1937. A copy of the warranty deed conveying title to Charlestown is attached for review and inspection.”

While a state board will ultimately decide who owns the property Agnew says there could be another road block between the two-sides since there is an alternate source of water available.

“The Department of Natural Resources constructed a new treatment plant, and an above ground storage tank with a 750,000 above ground capacity that was specifically designed to serve all of the water needs for the City of Charlestown,” said Agnew.

Under state law, the people of Charlestown can block the sale with a referendum which they have enough signatures for, but that could all be thrown out the window if the sale is approved as a distressed utility.
 

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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