NORTH WEBSTER — Following updates on Lakeland Regional Sewer District’s seven-year project, the floor was opened to public comments, which quickly turned to a heated battle.
The public comments started with a meeting regular, Stew Lambert, owner of Pine Bay Resort in Leesburg, who expressed his frustration with his new sewer rates. Since his property has multiple dwelling units and is not considered a campground that qualifies for special rates by the board, he will pay a sewer bill for each site on his property. Lambert cited this expense as $38,000 per year, noting board member John McDaniel’s campground is receiving the reduced rate although their operations are similar.
“I am recognized as a campground by everyone but you,” added Lambert. Lambert is listed as a campground on Kosciusko County’s government website.
Lambert’s frustration was tangible as he raised his voice to the board, demanding justification of their decisions. “You folks are heartless,” shouted Lambert, adding the board wants him to go out of business.
Helen Bryant demanded to know who was going after local farmers who are putting fertilizers and waste in lakes and streams, insisting “the farmer just lets it flow.” The board explained farming is not within their jurisdiction.
For each question thrown at the board, members attempted to provide explanation or answers, but were consistently interrupted. Bob Sanders recommended closing the meeting as public comments turned to attacking personal characteristics about the board members, such as posture or affluence.
One public member stepped up and attempted to speak with his community, explaining the entire sewer project was mandated by the federal government and those on the board were simply unpaid volunteers. “The big issue is the clean drinking water,” he added.
The board explained even working sewer systems that are currently in place are allowing bacteria to enter drinking water wells. In response to the accusation the public didn’t want this project to happen, board member Bob Marcucilli noted 96 percent of property owners signed over easements to be part of the project. “Because they were bullied,” came the yell from one unnamed public member.
The meeting ended with not much resolution and many mumbles under their breath by public members in attendance. The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 3.