CROMWELL — Following several heated discussions between members of the public and board representatives, the Turkey Creek Regional Sewer District board began Monday evening’s meeting with an outline of rules. Last month, one public member presented Indiana code allowing the public comments to continue indefinitely without advance notice at the start of the meeting.
Monday evening, Sept. 17, TCRSD board president Rex Heil heeded that advice. Public comments were pushed to the end of the meeting, limited to two minutes, and were able to be disregarded if the board felt the questions/comments were repetitive in nature to those preceding.
At the centrifuge of these discussions is an overarching discontent from the local members who could be forced into connecting to sewers they don’t want or feel they need. Fresh off of the S.W.A.P sewer undertaking, the TCRSD immediately began looking into the benefits and downfalls of continuing the sewers to cover Eastshore and Northshore drives, specifically. While the board continues to collect info from engineers, rate consultants and potential customers, the public has demanded paperwork and data to provide the “why” behind the estimated $15,000+ cost per residence to install and connect to this mandatory sewer.
One potential victim to this cost is resident David Johnston. Johnston has consistently attended the TCRSD monthly meetings since partnering with friends and neighbors who felt the same opposition. Although the project has not yet hit a planning stage, public members are fired-up at the thought of being forced to join without what they see as good reason to ditch current septic systems. Johnston feels the pollution of Syracuse Lake is not in question, even notifying the board of more alarming causes of pollution like E. coli from waterfowl. Johnston also questioned if there was a set number of failing septic systems required for the board to move ahead with the project in the name of protecting Syracuse Lake.
Andrew Grossnickle, attorney for the district, explained if the board moves ahead with the project, those who fail to connect will be subject to injunctive relief through fines, penalties, and eventual forced connection. Grossnickle addressed this question at the request of resident Donna Johnston who reached out to the district via email. Jeff Hersha, Jones and Henry engineer, also addressed some of the email concerns sent in by residents. “The district has a responsibility to provide sewer,” said Hersha, referencing the mandate yet again that created the district and authorized the power to decide on projects like this.
Rebecca Rassi, a new face to the meetings, attempted to help bridge the misunderstanding gap between the board and the public. Rassi noted residents are “feeling evaded” on a project that seems to be moving ahead even with huge amounts of public dissent. Hersha conceded, saying “I wish we had done a better job of presenting up front.” Rassi and others suggested several options as solutions, including optional connection or delaying the project.
While the public support has been less than enthusiastic for the possible sewers around Northshore and Eastshore, the district has made much more positive progress with the current contracted work to allow treatment of additional sewer from Syracuse. The wastewater plant is expanding and contractors are on-site ready to start concrete before cold weather slows the progress. The updated plant as well as new force main and pump stations will allow the district to treat sewage they were previously being billed for through the town of Syracuse.
The district will meet again to discuss TCRSD updates and public concerns at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 15. Meetings are held at the district office located at 4852 N. 1200 West, Cromwell. Email questions can also be directed to [email protected]