By Tim O’Meilia
and Steve Plunkett

    Manalapan and South Palm Beach town officials think they may emerge smelling like a rose from a dispute with the city of Lake Worth over payments for the operation of a regional sewer system.
    In August 2010, Lake Worth sued its seven municipal partners in the regional system — including Manalapan, South Palm Beach and Lantana — claiming it was owed $7 million for operation and maintenance of the system, dating back years. Palm Beach, Palm Springs, Atlantis and Palm Beach State College also are being sued.
    A consultant hired by the seven entities thinks Manalapan may have overpaid by $12,000 rather than underpaid, Town Manager Linda Stumpf said.
    “That hasn’t been presented to Lake Worth. That’s just our calculation,’’ Stumpf told Manalapan commissioners. “But we’ve believed from the beginning that the numbers that they’ve come up with are excessive.’’
    After a review of the regional system’s records dating to 1997, GAI Consultants of Orlando also told South Palm Beach Town Manager Rex Taylor that the town’s bill will be far less than Lake Worth claims.
    “I would suggest we have substantially refuted and countered the various claims made by Lake Worth,” Taylor told South Palm Beach council members.
    South Palm Beach has set aside $157,000 to pay any judgment or agreement in the dispute. “I don’t think it will approach what we’ve allocated,” he said.
    Although Lake Worth has admitted to faulty record-keeping, it claims the towns have been underpaying for years.
    State auditors recently completed an examination of Lake Worth’s sewer system financial records, but the results are not expected to be released for several months. The seven partners paid for the audit.
    Taylor said the towns hope they can reopen talks with Lake Worth and negotiate a new operating agreement.      

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