ELKHART — The task force responsible for proposing a compromise in the compact sewer dispute was heavily criticized Monday night, May 6, at the Elkhart City Council meeting.
Numerous business owners told council members their responsibility of coming up with a solution has been hijacked as a result of the task force, which is being formed as a result of an agreement between Mayor Dick Moore and state legislators.
Several expressed little faith in the task force because it is being assembled by Moore and accused the mayor of “stacking the deck.”
Among those were Darlene Angel, who pointed to the fact that three of the task force members are from the city utility office.
Darren Sorg of Sorg Jewelers suggested the task would force a “facade” city leaders could hide behind.
Also among those speaking was State Rep. Tim Neese, who accepted an invitation by Moore to sit on the task force.
While Neese accepted the position, he also expressed reservations about whether the task force is best suited to resolve the dispute that has embroiled cthe ity council for nearly six months.
Neese, referring to the city in general, urged everyone to “roll up their sleeves” and get to work as soon as possible.
Neese, who blasted Moore several weeks ago for the handling of the sewer issue, said he believes the city’s image is being tarnished as a result of the controversy.
Neese said he’s worried about the possible impact it could have on attracting and retaining businesses. To see a business leave the city as a result, he said, would be the “maximum penalty.”
Moore, who normally attends city council meetings often until adjournment, left near the end before public input was permitted.
Moore’s agreement with state lawmakers came after they threatened to pass legislation that would have potentially clamped down on the city’s use of compact fees for businesses that use city sewer and are located outside of city limits.
The agreement included the end of a moratorium on sewer connections outside of the city, which Moore announced as the legislation began to gain momentum.
The agreement calls for the city to establish a new policy by April of 2014.
In the meantime, the 75 businesses that were being shifted to the new policy will apparently pay the city rate while 63 other companies will continue to pay based on the more expensive compact policy.
Rocky Enfield, who is among the 75 business owners, called the interim arrangement a “sweetheart of a deal,” but criticized every other aspect of the issue, including what he considers the unfair treatment of the other 63 companies.
Also speaking was Jon Nelson, a leader of the Valley View Hills subdivision, which has disputed the city’s residential compact policy for years.
Nelson questioned whether the task force would look at the residential aspect.
Council president Ron Troyer said after Monday’s meeting that he was told the task force will look at the residential policy as well as commercial.
Moore has said little about the task force, but last week asked for patience as it begins work, hopefully by mid-May.
Whether the meetings will be open to the public remains in question.
Council members had very little to say about the subject during the meeting. Troyer, who was attempting to oversee several public meetings on the subject prior to the formation of the task force, pledged not to let the issue “drag on.”
The council’s next scheduled meeting is May 20.