The LaGrange County Regional Utility District held a special meeting Tuesday afternoon to hear from the eight property owners who have yet to connect to the Shipshewana West system. The purpose of the meeting, board president Ron Kantorak told the property owners, was to ask if they intended to connect or not, and if so, on what timeline. Kantorak added that the district was trying to do everything it could to avoid lawsuits and fines.
Two of the property owners, one of which is a bank that owns a foreclosed property, were not present.
The board first heard from Robert Bowen, who told the board that he wasn’t sure if he was going to hook into the system or not. Bowen contended that he didn’t need a sewer system, but would hook up when his septic system no longer worked.
Bowen also expressed concern about when power goes out for any extended time, and noted he had asked the district if he could connect a “Y” valve so that his septic system would be usable in those cases. The district had told him that would not be possible.
“I don’t need a sewer,” Bowen said. “But you’ve apparently said I need to. I’m not sure what it accomplishes.”
Robert and Diane Fiedler told the board that they do not plan to connect to the system, and told the district board that they are currently in court with the LaGrange County Health Department over the issuance of a certificate for exemption. Fiedler told the board that he did not think it would be appropriate for them to require action by the Fiedlers while the issue is in court.
The Fiedlers had sought an exemption under new state laws that required a septic system to be tested to receive an exemption from hooking into a sewer system. The Fiedlers said that their system passed a test by a third party, but the county would not issue the certificate needed for exemption.
Steve Schrock told the board that he does not have the financial means to connect. “If you plan to sue me, let me know so I can stop making house payments,” he said to the board.
Schrock told the board that he did not agree with the blanket easement the district wanted property owners to sign, nor did he feel he needed the system.
Janine Taylor told the board that her husband, Fred, and she had tried for an exemption and, although their system passed, was told that they didn’t qualify for the exemption. She told the board that they do intend to connect, but asked for a one year extension as her husband had serious medical issues recently.
Ronald Tribble spoke for both his property and one owned by his father that they are renovating. He told the board that he had contacted Mains Excavating, who told him that the grinder pump had been set too high and that there was no way to connect to the pump.
Both homes were also being renovated, with no working plumbing currently in either location. Tribble’s property will be razed and rebuilt, he told the board.
Kantorak asked for a letter from Tribble explaining the timeline of the renovation projects.
Finally, Shipshewana Lake area resident Lisa Bowen-Slaven addressed the board, noting that they had connected, although their home was more than 470 ft. from the line, and their lot was just under the 10 acres needed for exemption. She noted that she has seen numerous properties not connected, and asked the board why those were not. “I’m asking for equal application of the law,” she told the board.
She presented the district with a list of properties that she knew not to be connected and asked for clarification on why they were not connected.
District legal counsel John Gastineau told her that it was in the district’s best interest to have as many users in the system as possible.
Kantorak told those present that the board would be holding an executive session to discuss litigation strategy in regards to the non-connected properties. The executive session was set for Aug. 15 at 5 p.m. The regular board meeting will follow at 6 p.m.