WARSAW — Lakeland Regional Sewer District board of directors held a sparsely attended monthly public meeting Wednesday, Feb. 21, which dealt with defective electrical panels in grinder pumps, pump station communications and penalties for failure to connect.
One item not on the agenda was the regional flooding, one reason for low attendance, as high water signs on roads surrounding the wastewater plant may have kept the public away.
Additionally, Astbury employees usually attending the meeting were in the field, monitoring pump stations dealing with nearly 30 percent more flow than usual.
Meanwhile, the board heard a brief report from Casey Erwin, DLZ engineer, centered around contractor RE Crosby’s inability to connect radio communications from the pump stations to the wastewater plant, due in part to an erroneous propagation study failing to account for infeasible tower heights of 90 to 100 feet.
Instead, cellphone technology has been up and operating since the spring of 2017. According to Erwin, the primary drawback of the cell technology is its monthly fee plus upgrade costs. DLZ is preparing a cost comparison for the March meeting.
The problem of defective electrical panels appears to have been mostly solved, as a total of 350 inspections showed only four needing replacement. Out of 1,261 panels, 38 have so far needed replacement, a 3 percent failure rate, which Astbury is well-prepared to handle, thanks in part to improved shipping times.
The question remaining is whether or not the manufacturer, Crane, will pay the $555.55 in freight costs for the replacement panels, as the board agrees it should.
The only irregularity in Mike DeWald’s treasurer’s report reflected the $33,000 paid to Jones, Petrie and Rafinski for inspecting electrical panels.
However, Dewald did reiterate his concern about the increasing number of customers failing to pay within 90 days. January’s report found $9,000 added to this column, bringing the total to $32,000, up from $23,000 in December.
“It’s a troubling trend that needs to be watched,” DeWald stated.
Kenneth Jones of JPR reported new connections had come to a virtual standstill, with only three in January. He did not expect the lack of activity to change until the warmer season begins. Two-hundred forty-eight customers remain unconnected.
The board then discussed penalties for failure to connect. Members are leaning toward a tiered system eventually reaching the $100 per day penalty allowed by state statutes, but they remain undecided on whether to provide a cap, often set at $10,000.
A cap helps ensure resale of the property at a tax sale following the lien period, allowing the district the possibility of acquiring a new customer rather than losing future revenue to the county, which eventually writes off unpaid fines. According to Jones, some districts have $1 million in fines on the books.
However, there is also a fear the district could lose its leverage with a cap, though member Sue Ann Mitchell noted residents unable to pay $10,000 are just as unlikely to pay $20,000 or more.
The issue of penalties was tabled until the March meeting.
The board voted on a billing process for campgrounds wherein the previous year’s total is divided by 12, with level billing for 11 months and the balance paid on the 12th month.
The board also responded to a request from contractors for a list of unconnected properties with a decision not to provide addresses.
“I’m not comfortable giving that information out,” said DeWald. The board agreed the district’s map provided the necessary data.