WARSAW — Following a brief hearing Wednesday, May 16, Lakeland Regional Sewer District’s board of trustees voted to adopt an ordinance fining those who fail to connect to the sewer by July 1, 2018.
The tiered system of fines was agreed upon at the monthly public meeting held Wednesday, April 18. Property owners who fail to connect to the sewer by July 1, must pay a fine of $10 per day. If still unpaid Sept. 1, the fee will be raised to $25 a day. On Dec. 1, the fee will be raised again to $50 per day. On March 1, 2019, the fee again rises to $75 per day. On June 1, 2019, the fine will be raised to $100 per day, the maximum allowable by state law.
Only two residents spoke out against the fines. Scott Kraps, a Muncie resident with property on Little Barbee Lake, asked for leeway to give him time to obtain a “fair quote.” He said the quotes from local contractors were twice those he received elsewhere.
Tom Haney, another district resident, likened the fines to theft of an individual’s time and property. “I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to put a sewer system in,” said Haney, however, he feels he has a right to maintain a septic system in the event of a “major catastrophe.”
The fines, Haney implied, are, along with property and utility taxes, yet another way the government has stripped citizens of their freedom. He encouraged the board to “think about what they are doing to a lot of property owners.”
According to Greg Gear, LRSD manager, 1,132 — 94.9 percent — of LRSD properties have obtained permits needed to connect to the sewer. The number connected is now 1,417 — 86 percent. There are 83 properties unconnected and without permits to do so.
Following the hearing, the board heard bids for bypassing the non-potable water tank, enabling the replacement of a pump, which Don Neff, Astbury Water Technologies sewer plant operator, believes was the wrong pump for the job.
Furthermore, DLZ Engineering’s plans for the fix, bid on by four companies, specify a 4 mm screen, which Neff said may also be inadequate. Algae, he explained, breaks down from long to very fine strands, and he feared the 4 mm screen “will still get solids through it.”
“We’ll go back and check that,” said the DLZ representative present.
DLZ and the board have four wildly differing bids to choose from, ranging from $34,000, Haskins Underground, to well over $100,000 from Ottenweller Contracting. The bids were broken down into four parts and the discrepancies, though not unheard of, may be the reason one DLZ representative said part of the review process would involve insuring none of the contractors “missed the intent” of the contract.
Meanwhile, LRSD continues to experience problems with Crane Pumps who is responsible for servicing grinder stations, including faulty electrical panels. As Mike DeWald, treasurer, commented, “They get an F for following up on things.”
DeWald also expressed consternation upon discovering Astbury is a Crane subcontractor, servicing some grinder pump components. Attorney Andy Boxberger agreed with DeWald there may be a conflict of interest if Astbury is working for both the district and Crane.
Neff said he was happy to end the arrangement, which is merely intended to expedite repairs. Board President Jim Haney commiserated with Neff and expressed his own frustration with managing the warranty process with Crane.
A Crane representative will once again be called to a future meeting, though past promises to improve service have not been kept.
Neff assured the board there is still no risk of property owners being without service.