By SHELLEY MOORE
Public Relations for Tippecanoe Lake Sewer Initiative
LEESBURG — For more than a year, the Tippecanoe Lake Sewer Initiative has hired experts who have worked statewide in the engineering and legal details for planning and implementing sewer systems. The independent committee of residents of Tippecanoe Lake in Kosciusko County has researched legal structures between regional and conservancy districts, the different ways to engineer the project to different treatment plant options, as well as the projected homeowner costs related to Tippecanoe Lake’s situation. They have spent tens of thousands of dollars investigating what they, as Tippecanoe Lake homeowners, feel is the best, fair and affordable option for all landowners.
A small opposition group has recently raised concerns without understanding the research that has been conducted. The opposition is misstating facts and they are stating there is a misrepresentation of intent regarding the time and money that has been spent for the sole purpose of installing a sewer system on Tippecanoe Lake. Sewer systems have already been installed for most lakes in Kosciusko and the surrounding counties. More than 96 active conservancy districts exist around the state.
The success of the TLSI group’s education of facts to the community has resulted in more than 500 landowners, representing more than 1,200 land parcels, signing petitions for the formation of a freeholder-led conservancy district for the sole purpose of implementing a sewer system on Tippecanoe Lake. Each freeholder was presented with a two-page legal description of the scope of the proposed conservancy district — for sewers only — as well as a legal description of the properties included.
“We want to clear up the misrepresentation of facts that has been presented by opposing community members who simply haven’t afforded themselves the time to understand the advantages of a conservancy district over a regional district,” stated Joe Tynan, leader of the TLSI. “It is unfortunate that the people who want the most cost-effective solution are opposing the only structure that is in fact led by our very own residents who will make responsible, informed decisions, with required public input, under the same tax guidelines as any other structure. The difference is that a regional district would be led by government bureaucrats who will likely require higher costs that will be dictated to us.”
One fear of the opposition is a conservancy district will go beyond the sewer implementation and will try to control other aspects of the lake. “From the beginning, our intent, as is legally stated in the petition, is to solely implement a sewer system,” stated Jeff Thornburgh, TLSI committee member. “For that to change, in the future, the conservancy district board will have to engage this legal process through the court system all over again to change the scope of the district. If anyone attempted to change this scope, everyone in our group would greatly oppose such action and would fight to stop it.”
Jon Tyler, TLSI team member stated, “Seventy percent of parcels in the proposed district have assessed values of $300,000 and less. Forty-four percent are less than $150,000. We believe a flat rate structure is unfair to the majority of landowners, as under such fees everyone is charged the same regardless of property value or system usage. The new system should be affordable for everyone in the district. With grants, lower bond rates and other discount structures that a conservancy district can use, and based on the engineering and plant treatment options that we have explored, we are recommending the most cost-effective solution that is fair to all. While there are always going to be people who want to stir the pot in projects like this, we are representing the facts. We are happy to sit down and discuss them further with everyone interested.”
As TLSI presented in its August 2017 release, they encourage the community to visit their website www.sustainourlake.com and learn the six key reasons why a sewer is necessary on Tippecanoe Lake. This includes reasons such as aging septic systems, small property lot sizes not meeting septic requirements, unfavorable soils and lowlands that are not appropriate for septic systems and more. Also provided are details about the proposed cost structure. Information was also mailed to freeholders via a letter and three postcards explaining the facts.
Visit www.sustainourlake.com for project details.