SYRACUSE — Re-opening a discussion previously tabled in October 2018, Turkey Creek Regional Sewer District came prepared for a fight Monday night, Aug. 19. Each month the board meets publicly to discuss operation of the district. This month, the district’s new attorney contacted at least one local resident to let them know the formerly heated discussion into adding sewer around Eastshore and Northshore drives was yet again coming open.
The board covered the basics first — approving meeting minutes and bills for the previous month, as well as providing updates on the nearly complete clarifier tank and smaller maintenance items within the territory. James Boone, board president, then made a motion for the board to re-open the planning and discovery phase of sewering Northshore and Eastshore drives. Robert Dumford seconded.
It was no secret to the board that the majority of property owners who would be affected by this were not in support. Last year, property owners spoke out against the unfairness of forced connection, the impossible costs of installation and maintenance of grinder pumps, and the lack of need for sewers over septic tanks. When the board made the decision to table that discussion in October, the public made a simple request: listen more to the public and give fair warning should this come up again.
It would appear that TCRSD followed through with at least the fair warning portion. Property owner and unofficial chairman of the not-in-favor neighbors, David Johnston, was contacted directly by attorney Andrew Boxberger, and was able to spread the word. The crowd was large and did not hesitate to share its reticence to support this project. The board asked that public members state their name and address, and try to stay under two minutes when speaking. One woman spoke up to say this two-minute policy was “intimidating and offensive,” after stating she had attended each meeting and hasn’t “learned a … new thing.”
Following is what was covered by the public who spoke out:
Homeowners questioned the need to replace septic tanks with sewers and asked for numbers of septic tank failures. Jeff Hersha, Jones & Henry, was prepared with information on the current lives of each tank in the area in question. Hersha presented info obtained from the Kosciusko County Health Department stating there are more than 70 septic tanks older than 35 years — a life expectancy well outside of recommended as safe.
Property owners are fearful of huge costs with no options. If the TCRSD board votes to move ahead with the project, any home with sewage will be required to connect within 90 days of operation. Many public members still have a figure of $15,000-$20,000 in their heads, although the board could not confirm or deny that figure until designs are drawn and estimates made. Boxberger, Hersha, and superintendent Timothy Woodward have all vowed to move forward with making information available on grants and other forms of assistance, should the project be pursued.
Several property owners, including Myron Bontrager, stood up to speak out against grinder pump systems, and requested the district instead price out gravity flow sewers. After several requests, the district agreed to work with Hersha on getting estimates and plans for both types of systems.
Donna Johnston echoed the sentiments of others, asking if the public truly didn’t want the sewers if that opinion would even matter. Boxberger assured the group that their voices were being heard, but also admitted that the goal is to move forward with sewering, should the cost be feasible. Another man expressed distaste for the fact that nobody affected by the decisions made by the board had any power to select board members or vote them out of office.
The meeting lasted nearly two hours and covered many more small-scale items. David Johnston spoke up before the meeting closed to organize a meeting outside the office for anyone who is not in support of the sewers, but declined media coverage for that gathering on TCRSD’s property.
For full details on what was covered during the monthly meetings, visit tcrsd.com, to view meeting minutes from the months prior. For questions, visitors can also use the “Contact Us” portion of the website to email questions directly to the district.