- Paris Flash
- Real Estate
By CHARLES RICHARDS
City manager John Godwin and former interim city manager Gene Anderson “stepped in it” when they alleged earlier this month that Roger and Sharon Stripland and several neighbors illegally tied into the city’s sewage system, local attorney Bill Flanary says.
On behalf of the Striplands, who live at 3420 Clement Road, Flanary addressed the Paris City Council during citizen input of the June 11 meeting and asked that the council address (at a future meeting) their concerns about the amount of their monthly sewer charges.
Flanary suggested that since the Striplands and their neighbors connected onto the city’s sewer at their own expense that $25 a month would be fairer than the $31.36 rate they are being billed.
The item was on the July 9 council agenda, but Godwin asked that it be tabled until July 23, when the Striplands and their attorney could be present.
At the insistence of councilman John Wright, the council went ahead and discussed the issue without Flanary or the Striplands present.
“Since it’s on the agenda, and there’s been press on it. I’d like to have a brief on what this about. People all around town have been talking about it,” Wright said.
Weekend media reports in advance of the July 9 meeting quoted Godwin as saying in an agenda briefing memo intended for council members that “the Striplands and a few other families connected onto the city’s sewer system illegally more than 10 years ago.”
The families who tied onto the city sewage lines dispute they did anything illegal. City officials knew what they were doing and approved it, they say.
The briefing sheet for Monday night’s meeting seems to have accepted the Striplands’ assertion.
“It appears that the Striplands did at that time communicate with the city, and in fact the design and connection were reviewed and approved by the then city engineer,” Godwin advises the council in a revised briefing memo for Monday night’s meeting.
The several families connected onto the city’s sewer system on their own “in response to the fact that the city had not made sewer service directly available to their homes,” Godwin says, omitting the previous use of the word “illegally.”
The city manager adds that to the best of his knowledge, the system functioned fine for many years without incident or problem.
“However, in March of this year, a letter was sent from the city to the Striplands, advising them they would be assessed a monthly sewer charge since they do in fact use the city’s sewer service,” Godwin’s memo to the council adds.
“However we got here, I have found no evidence to suggest we should offer a lower monthly usage rate than assessed to all other residential users in the city,” the city manager said.”
“Although I am empathetic with any citizen who has to take it upon himself to get city sewer serviuce, the fact remains that monthly sewer bills are not based on infrastructure invewtments, but on ongoing operating and maintenance costs.”
During last meeting’s discussion, Godwin deferred to Anderson for an explanation of the problem.
“This came up back when I was serving as the interim (manager),” said Anderson, who is now back in his capacity as the city’s finance director only.
“I mentioned to the mayor that they hooked up without a permit and the city couldn’t maintain those lines because they were run across private property.”
Anderson said the city had no easement and “four or five houses along that section of street” had to have a pump to get their sewage to the point where it connects to the city sewer line.
“And they’ve got different size pumps. And so in some cases, one pump is overpowering another home’s pump and they get some backup, and so they’ve got some problems with that,” Anderson said.
He said he told them what normally happens when somebody buys a house or lot, all the costs of the infrastructure costs are rolled into the cost of the house or the cost of the lot.
“And it’s permitted and it’s developed and it’s done correctly,” Anderson said.
“But in this case, it wasn’t done correctly. It was done individually. And so the engineering on it is not done correctly. It doesn’t run down the right of way where we can access it and maintain it,” he said.
”What needs to happen in my opinion, is that it be correctly engineered and they obtain a legitimate connection to it. Their argument is because they paid for all this themselves they want some kind of discounted fee or rate.”
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