GOSHEN — There are still a few questions that need to be answered before Elkhart County leaders will allow nonprofit groups to apply for an assistance program that has traditionally been limited to individual homeowners.
The Elkhart County Stormwater Board is writing a new policy that would open the county’s cost share program for failing septic systems to nonprofit organizations. The program is geared toward eliminating illicit discharge by helping property owners pay for new septic equipment.
In the past, the cost share program has been restricted to homeowners, but in November the stormwater board was approached by a nonprofit organization for assistance. The board approved $10,000 for the Rose Home, a recovery program for women with substance abuse problems, to replace its faulty septic system.
The illicit discharge cost share program helps homeowners in the county based on their income. Applicants who earn $50,000 or less annually are eligible for the county to pay up $5,000 or half of the cost to replace a septic system. Property owners who earn between $50,000 and $75,000 can have up to 25 percent, or a maximum of $2,500, of the cost covered through the program.
The cost share program is funded through the county’s stormwater fees. Homeowners in the county pay an annual fee of $15, and property owners with non-residential land are charged $15 for every 3,600 square feet of hard surface.
The cost share program for nonprofit groups will mirror the requirements of individual homeowners, stormwater board members said.
“The questions that I raised were whether you would want to limit this to residential uses versus commercial business uses, in other words a parsonage or a house or a church that a nonprofit owns,” said Craig Buche, the board’s attorney. “And do you want to tie this to some kind of income standards which your residential policy is based on? And third, is there a dollar limit on how much you’re going to provide?”.
While the policy is still being written, stormwater board members suggested restricting assistance to nonprofit groups with residential facilities, requiring organizations to provide accurate and current financial data and limiting the total amount of assistance to $10,000.
“This is not written in stone,” said Blake Doriot, stormwater board member. “That’s just something to put down that we can look at.”
The stormwater board is expected to review a draft of the new cost share program policy in March.