WARSAW — After hearing from contractors unable to perform installation services until the spring, Lakeland Regional Sewer District board of directors passed a motion suspending failure to connect penalties from Jan. 1 to April 30. Penalties will resume May 1. As of the Feb. 20 meeting, 24 properties were still being assessed penalties.
“I think it’s a good thing,” commented board member Parke Smith, “It shows goodwill on our part and still holds folks accountable.”
In fact, liens have been filed on some unconnected properties as well as others with unpaid fines. Roughly $20,000 in lien payments was collected in January.
Board President Jim Haney reported a request from one property owner not to file a lien set to take effect in March, although roughly $4,000 in failure to connect penalties remained unpaid.
Despite the homeowner’s signed agreement with a contractor to get connected, the board voted unanimously to deny the request, agreeing with board member Bob Marcuccilli’s assertion such a move could “open the floodgates” to similar requests. Furthermore, as Treasure Mike DeWald commented, “There is no connection between the contractor and the bill.”
Unfortunately, as member Sue Ann Mitchell pointed out, once the lien is filed, the owner will have 18 months before the property goes to tax sale, followed by a redemption period.
In an unusual case, however, the board did waive penalties for a woman who was unable to sign an easement because her daughter, from whom she has had no contact in 15 years, remains on the deed. Though connected with a grinder she is responsible for until the easement can be signed, the owner owed $3,895 in penalties, which the board agreed to waive. Haney cast the only opposition vote.
The majority of the board agreed with Smith, who said, “What’s unique is she’s taking care of the grinder.”
During DeWald’s treasurer’s report, the board passed a motion approving a written response to Crowe LLP, the firm handling LRSD’s ongoing tax audit. Crowe cited concerns about procedural errors in the LRSD’s capital asset compliance and its bad debt policy.
According to DeWald, the perceived errors are a “tempest in a teapot,” and explained in the letter the district had selected classes of assets at its January 2019 meeting. As for the bad debt policy, DeWald said the policy was filed with the county “as law allows” and can lead to a tax sale.
The board voted to approve the purchase of five CDs at six, 12, 36 and 48 months, for $500,000, leaving $293,000 in the budget to meet “ongoing needs” such as $75,000 bond payments to USDA.
The board also approved Carter Financial Statement’s report of unaudited cash receipts and disbursements, showing a total cash balance of $1,000,186.