Text and Photos by David Hazledine
WARSAW — Lakeland Regional Sewer District Board of Trustees opened its first meeting of 2021 with a vote to retain officers from the previous year. They are: Jim Haney, board president; Bob Marcuccilli, vice president, assistant secretary; Mike DeWald, treasurer; Parke Smith, secretary.
During financial reports, DeWald characterized December 2020 as a “textbook month,” with the exception unmetered receipts were higher than usual, which he attributed to a recovery from lower than usual receipts in November likely caused by COVID-19.
Total cash and fund balances equaled approximately $1,973,000, according to DeWald, $806,000 of which is owed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including a $394,000 payment due Feb. 1.
Looking back over 2020, DeWald commented “customers are paying their bills,” resulting in a healthy financial situation, which the district is taking advantage of in a number of ways, including regular transfers into the asset replacement fund and investments in short term CDs.
After making $96,000 in transfers into the asset replacement fund, LRSD was still roughly $133,000 “better off” at the end of 2020 than predicted in the budget. DeWald highlighted system repairs, which came to about $15,000 on a budget of $48,000.
With an eye toward possible increased costs as the system ages, the board voted to transfer an additional $204,000 from its operations and management fund to the asset replacement fund.
During Astbury Water Technologies’ monthly report, manager Don Neff noted one location at Brandywine Lane requiring repeated maintenance as the result of a resident flushing a “large amount of paper products” into the system. Repairs have included a replaced pump and check valve in spite of LRSD employees’ repeated attempts to “educate” the resident. “I don’t know where to go from here,” said Neff. The problem also comes after two mailings to the public listing items which should not be flushed or thrown down drains.
In recent months, board members have discussed the need for a process by which the district could charge homeowners for repeated violations, including the documentation of violations and warnings by certified mail. Smith cited the Brandywine Lane situation as exemplifying the need for such a process, including a letter to the homeowner stating “if it continues to be a problem you will be billed.”
LRSD attorney Andy Boxberger commented this is common practice in other districts and recommended a three-strike system in which the homeowner receives a verbal warning and is then billed if the violation continues after receiving a warning letter documenting the problem.
Haney commented on another repeat offender, except in this instance the repairs resulted from grease build-up. Neff agreed to begin documenting such repeat violations in the future.
The board also heard from a homeowner whose grinder was placed before construction on his home was complete. Water has been pooling above the grinder ever since, which the homeowner blamed on the grinder being placed too low, a problem he insisted could be solved with a 4-inch riser; however, after preliminary research, Casey Erwin of DLZ Engineering suggested the problem may be more complex due to changes in elevation and drainage resulting from the home construction.
After extensive discussion, it was agreed Erwin would examine the site in person and try to determine the cause of the problem and a solution, at which time, Haney added, the board would also determine if the district or the homeowner is responsible for the necessary repairs.