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Utility district questioned on youth camp counts

 

The LaGrange County Regional Utility District was asked to look into how bed counts are done, and confirmed, for youth camps at Wednesday’s meeting.

Region B resident Tom Mason approached the board regarding his concerns over how the district has billed Camp Potawotami on Blackman Lake for the last 12 years.

Earlier this year, as the district worked out billing for two youth camps in the Shipshewana West project, it was discovered that the YMCA camp near South Milford was being billed based on an agreement made when the system was installed. However, no paperwork on the exact agreement was found at the time.

Mason noted that the camp had claimed 120 beds for billing purposes, but was told by someone at the camp that they had 210. “There is also a structure as an office that has not paid one penny,” Mason said.

Mason also told the district that he believed at least two other structures were on septic systems and not hooked into the sewer system.

Mason estimated that the district had lost nearly $500,000 in billing over the 12 years since billing started.

Board member Ron Kantorak noted that the board has been investigating the billing issue and is still getting documentation as it looks at what to do going forward.

Board President Mike Sutter stated that although no one on the current board was there at the time the agreement on billing the camp was made, he found the situation not only a financial issue, but embarrassing for the district. “This issue is not being ignored,” Sutter added. “This is more than just serious. It is catastrophic.”

Later, during discussion on the Shipshewana West project, property owner Diane Fiedler asked the board if it had done “due diligence” in getting an accurate bed count from the Brethren Retreat Center. “Is the district going to count the beds at the camps?” Fiedler asked.

District Administrator Heidi Sisco said that the district sends out a verification letter each year and can do site visits at any time to confirm the numbers.