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Council chastises task force for ‘illegal’ meeting

Republican city council members in Elkhart heavily critcized the sewer task force for meeting privately in what they believe to be a violation of the Indiana Open Door Law.
Posted on May 20, 2013 at 1:00 a.m.

ELKHART — Several Republican Elkhart City Council members indicated Monday, May 20, they don’t have much interest in waiting for a recommendation from Mayor Dick Moore’s compact sewer task force.

Republicans David Henke, Mary Olson and Brian Dickerson also took time during the city council meeting to assail the task force for meeting privately and violating Indiana’s Open Door Law.

They were joined by Democrat council president Ron Troyer, who said he will try to arrange a special meeting of the city council to address the compact sewer dispute as soon as possible.

Dickerson, reiterating concerns expressed earlier by a business owner, asked Troyer to schedule a meeting before a June 2 deadline in which the city could begin cutting off sewer service for Valley View Hills subdivision resident who have refused to sign a new residential compact agreement. As of last week, 12 households had still not signed.

Businessman David Schemenauer urged the council to call on Moore to avoid severing service to Valley View customers. Troyer said he’ll work to see if a meeting can be arranged before the Valley View deadline arrives.

While the task force is looking for a solution to how the city charges commercial properties outside of the city for sewer service, representatives of a business coalition also want the city to adjust the residential policy for customers outside of the city, including Valley View.

Three of the four Republicans on the council said they believe private meetings of the task force are illegal.

“State of Indiana law is very clear,” Olson said.

“Don‘t invite me to the task force because I will not attend an illegal ... meeting,” Olson said.

Added Henke: “I don’t know why we’re having secret meetings. I don’t think it’s productive at all.”

The task force has been charged with coming up with a new policy that the city council could consider.

Last week’s task force meeting occurred despite warnings from a representative of the state public access counselor’s office that public notice had not been properly given. Dale Brewer, a paralegal for the office, also said the meetings need to be open to the public.

Moore said he thought the group should meet privately on May 15 to avoid “distractions.”

Moore did not attend Monday’s meeting. Arvis Dawson, the mayor’s assistant, told the council the administration doesn’t believe the meetings are a violation. He said the state office’s informal opinion was based on “reports” and that the city legal office offered an opinion based on “facts.”

Two council members who are on the task force — Republican Brian Thomas and Democrat Tonda Hines — did not address the issue during the meeting.


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