ELIZABETHTOWN — Bud and Martha Lotz have owned their home in Elizabethtown for at least two decades, and since that time, haven’t paid a penny for sewer service with the town.
The issue seeped to the surface recently, however, when the town did an audit to determine who in town was paying for water and not paying for sewer. That’s when the Lotz property bubbled up.
The reason for the “free” sewer service goes back to the 1970s, when sewer lines were put in to eliminate septic tanks. As soon as the lines were put to use, the property began experiencing problems, and it was determined that the lines were not buried deeply enough.
The town sent engineers to assess the situation, and the town’s Public Works Department accepted responsibility for the problem — agreeing to install and maintain a pump, as well as waive sewer fees. That agreement was reportedly made between then-mayor Bill Keith and former property owner David Cross. When Cross sold the property to the Lotzes, the agreement continued. All of this information was relayed to the Elizabethtown Town Council by the Lotzes at Monday afternoon’s planning session.
While it is understood that sewer rates have increased over the course of 20 years, and using the current monthly bill of around $28 only as a rough estimate, the Lotzes have received up to $6,720 worth of free service. The “free” sewer service, however, has not been without cost, nor did the pump resolve all of the problems. The Lotzes told the council that they have experienced numerous problems throughout the years.
“The pump is an eyesore,” Bud Lotz explained to the council, “and we’re on edge whenever a big group of people come to the house. We’ve got signs in our bathrooms, and it’s been an embarrassment to our children, and to us still, to have people see them.”
In addition to the emotional cost, the problem has exacted both a financial and a physical toll.
“We’ve spent many backbreaking hours mopping our floors and have incurred expenses replacing the flooring,” said Martha.
When the audit brought the issue to the attention of the town, a bill for around $28 — an average monthly sewer bill — was sent to the Lotzes, and they requested an audience with the Town Council to discuss the bill, asking that the town consider continuing the Cross/Keith agreement. Current town policy states that property owners are responsible for pump maintenance.
“I don’t think it’s an unreasonable request with the costs that we’ve incurred,” said Martha Lotz. “We assumed the agreement would continue, and never received a letter stating otherwise.”
When asked whether they would like to return to a septic tank, the couple responded negatively.
Councilman Howell Clark suggested a compromise — that the town pay for the upkeep of the pump and the couple pay for the monthly bill.
The board decided to waive this month’s bill and to see about putting together a formal, non-transferrable agreement.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.