By David Hazledine
WARSAW — Lakeland Regional Sewer District Board of Trustees continued to grapple with the problem of how to maintain a grinder serving roughly 30 homes in the Lake Estates mobile home park outside North Webster at its monthly public meeting held Wednesday evening, Feb. 17.
The problem, as described by LRSD wastewater plant manager Don Neff of Astbury Water Technologies, stems from the unusual situation of both REMC and NIPSCO serving the park. This led to an overflow when a grinder station served by NIPSCO lost power along with eight NIPSCO-served houses using the grinder. However, around 24 other homes also hooked up to the grinder but getting electricity from REMC continued pumping into the disabled station, causing an overflow. Overflows are the district’s responsibility and are strictly monitored by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
Neff reported making contact with engineers from both utilities, but added chances were “slim to none” the fiercely territorial companies would find a way to work together to provide dual power to the grinder. The next solution would be to purchase a standby generator, which, according to Neff, are on back order for up to 21 weeks.
Yet another solution may be found by working with the park to find a power source “up stream” from the problem area. Board President Jim Haney requested Neff research this further.
A drainage problem resulting in water collecting on the grinder lid at 45 EMS B48A first addressed at the January meeting was also revisited, with DLZ engineer Casey Erwin giving a brief presentation to the board. He disagreed with the owner’s assessment the problem could be solved simply by raising the grinder, which Casey said would also raise the “overflow path” on the property, possibly leading to other problems.
After reviewing Erwin’s information, Trustee Bob Marcuccilli expressed his belief the problem was caused by construction done after the grinder was installed. The owner responded with a description of a “smashed culvert” and incorrect flux hose fittings resulting from the contractor’s work during installation. “I never came to the board for compensation on any of this.”
For Trustee Joe Cleland, none of this altered the fact that, as he told the owner, “You changed the grade.”
According to Erwin, finding a solution would require measuring the grades on the property, which cannot be done until after the snow melts.
The board also heard from John Peterink and Lisa Llewellyn, new owners of property at 80 EMS B61 Lane, which they purchased in a tax sale for $37,000, including $23,625.09 in liens against the property from unpaid sewage fees and fines. The couple requested the district use surplus funds it received when the deed was issued to help pay for the installation of a grinder, which could cost as much as $16,000.
Trustee Sue Ann Mitchell pointed out the property value is assessed at $92,000, far less than the couple paid even after grinder installation, while Marcuccilli cited seven other properties owned by Peterink. “Now you want other homeowners to help put your sewer in.”
Peterink responded he simply wanted funds he had paid to be allocated to “address the specifics of this situation.” Andy Boxberger, board attorney, likened this to asking the county to reimburse taxes.
“We’re not in the funding business,” Haney concluded. The district, he said, “belongs to all 1,700 people (property owners) in the district … we’re not in a position to give you assistance.”
In reference to the effectiveness of the district’s failure to connect policies, Haney pointed out only 10 properties out of roughly 1,700 remain unconnected, while “many districts have hundreds after 10 or 15 years.”