For the 11 property owners in the Shipshewana West service area who did not sign an easement with the LaGrange County Regional Utility District, there is a slight change to the way they are being told to hook into the system. They will now be allowed to seek other quotes on the equipment to compare to the cost of purchasing the equipment through the district. Previously, those residents that were bypassed during construction due to not signing a blanket easement with the district would have been required to purchase the grinder pumps and other equipment through the district.
The change came about Wednesday evening as Rick Helm, attorney for Michael and Veronica Victor, questioned the district board for his clients, noting that no pumps, pipes or equipment that would be installed and operated by the district would be on the Victors’ property, and therefore they felt that they did not need to sign an easement at the time. Helm noted that the Victors felt that the easement did not serve any useful purpose as the new system would only require a line from their house to a grinder pump on the adjoining property, not theirs. The connection line would be installed by the owners, not the district.
“If you had a useful purpose (for the easement), I would not be standing here,” Helm said. “The law does not require a person to do a useless act.” Helm added that the Victors were looking to have to pay a lot of money for not signing an easement that, to them, served no purpose.
District attorney John Gastineau noted that the Victors, along with the other 10 property owners who had not signed an easement, had been given multiple opportunities to sign. The district had even been denied an amnesty opportunity when Rural Development said they could not offer a final opportunity for the owner to join the project.
Helm later stated, when asked, that the Victors would sign an easement to get the equipment installed and the property hooked into the system.
Helm also told the board that the Victors should be allowed to purchase their own equipment, which prompted the change in the district’s requirements. It was noted several times that the district does not mark up the cost of the grinder pumps or other equipment. The requirement was in place so that all equipment met the district’s specifications and was the same make and model to aid in maintenance for the district.
The district board voted to give all 11 property owners the opportunity to price equipment on their own to compare costs to the same equipment purchased through the district. All other requirements previously established would still apply – signing of the easement and that all work be done to the district’s specifications and be inspected by district personnel. If the property owners follow the requirements, the district will take over the operation and maintenance costs of the equipment, as well as future replacement.
The deadline to hook into the Shipshewana West system remained unchanged at June 15.