Elkhart’s Valley View holdouts could lose sewer services
Posted: 05/06/2013 at 4:25 pm
By: Angelle Barbazon
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Spray painted arrows are in place on Valley View Drive south of the Elkhart city limits Tuesday, March 19, 2013. The neighborhood has the markings on the street and small color coded flags placed in yards mapping the area for public utility workers if they are called on to disconnect the residents from the city sewer line. ¬ (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard)
Jon Nelson holds a letter he received from the city threatening to shut off is sewer service if he doesn’t sign a compact agreement with the city of Elkhart. A dozen people met to plot their strategy. (Truth Photo By Dan Spalding)
The county commissioners plan to send letters this week to property owners in the Valley View Hills Subdivision who have disputed Elkhart’s new compact fee policy for sewer service outside of city limits.
The city requested to gain right-of-way access to the 14 properties late last week to shut off sewer services, according to Elkhart County Highway Department manager Jeff Taylor. Gordon Lord, legal counsel for the county commissioners, said Monday, May 6, that the letters will explain that the city has the authority to require agreements with its utility customers and a right to set rates for services.
The county commissioners, along with health officer Dr. Daniel Nafziger, have opposed the city’s attempt to cut off sewer services, standing by concerns that it would create a health hazard for residents if sewage flows into yards or backs up in houses.
Though the commissioners still disagree with city’s plans, Lord said the county will not stop Elkhart’s crews from accessing the right of way as long as the city pays for the project and agrees exempt the county from liability if any lawsuits are filed. In the meantime, the commissioners will strongly recommend that the 14 holdouts sign an agreement with the city.
The decision to send letters to the 14 homeowners came just hours after the commissioners met Monday morning, Lord said.
Lord said the city and county are still hammering out the details, but he believes that if the group of homeowners decide not to sign on with the city, their sewer service could be shut off sometime next month.
“The simple message from the commissioners to those 14 homeowners is you need to sign the agreement, and it may be too expensive, I don’t know, but there’s no other alternative. Eventually there’s going to be a court order. State law is clear,” county commissioner Mike Yoder said, adding that he believes a court would likely rule in favor of the city.