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Dispute over unpaid sewer fees could head to court

September 29, 2014

Dozens of residents in southern Indiana could face legal action for failing to pay to tie in to sewer lines in a newly annexed area.

Len Ashack, utility director for the Jeffersonville Wastewater Department, said the sewer department is short more than $100,000 because 63 residences haven't paid the $1,600 fee that helps offset the cost of building new sewers.

"We spent close to $10 million in sewers in these areas and expect the people that we've sewered to connect to the project," Ashack told the News and Tribune.

Some residents received notices that they must hook into the new sewers and pay the fees two years ago. Others have had notices since last September and October. Those who haven't complied have received multiple reminders.

"I've got a number of phone calls from people who have followed the letter and connected, saying that's not fair to them that they connected and their neighbors refuse to connect," Ashack said. "So I think it's time we need to get serious with the folks that ... refuse to connect to our sewer system.

"If we have to take them to court, then so be it," he said.

Sewer board attorney Scott Lewis said the city has "gone above and beyond" the state requirement that one final letter be sent to noncompliers.

Lewis said he would begin legal action with those who've owed the fees the longest.

The city has had a long history of residents refusing to pay sewer bills or fees. A year ago, more than 100 people were on a list of those who hadn't paid capacity fees.

In May, the department began shutting off water to force residents to pay overdue sewer bills that totaled more than $1.2 million.

The revenue is critical because the city must fund a $37 million combined sewer overflow interceptor to comply with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mandate to limit how much sewage empties into the Ohio River.

 

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