Free sewer gurgles down the drain

By Chrysta Carroll -

ELIZABETHTOWN — The issue of sewage bubbled to the surface again at Monday’s Elizabethtown Town Council meeting, a return to an issue brought to light in May when Bud and Martha Lotz appeared before the board asking that a verbal agreement reached in the 1970s be continued.

In the ’70s, according to the Lotzes, then-mayor Bill Keith entered into an agreement with former property owner David Cross saying that the town would install and maintain a pump and waive sewer fees at the home. This was done, the Lotzes said, because the town had not buried the sewer lines deeply enough. When the Lotzes bought the property, the agreement continued, until a recent audit by the town revealed that the Lotzes have not paid a bill in 20 years. They received a bill for around $28 and appeared to the council to request that the fees continue to be waived, noting numerous problems caused by the system.

Last month, after hearing from the Lotzes, Councilman Howell Clark suggested a compromise — that the town pay for the upkeep of the pump and the Lotzes pay a monthly sewer bill. The board tabled the issue until a formal agreement could be drawn up.

The council returned to the issue on Monday by noting that, due to media coverage of the issue, homeowners have been reaching out with open hands to the Public Works Department.

“We’ve had several calls from people asking if they should be paying for sewer,” Public Works Director Pat Devane informed the board.

Current policy states that the town will maintain sewer lines, but pump installation and maintenance will be the responsibility of the property owner, as will monthly fees.

Council member Paula Green noted that, while no one doubted that the agreement was made, it was indisputably made with someone other than the Lotzes. Councilman Dicky Glenn suggested that any agreement made, be made for the duration of the ownership of the property.

When the issue of fault was raised, and it was inferred that the town might still need to pay for a problematic system, several responses were offered.

Devane informed the board that, in fact, the town has not been sent out to repair any problems with the system since he has been with the town, and he was not aware of any issues.

Town Manager Eddie Madden pointed out that lift stations, in general, can be more problematic than other options, since they are working against gravity.

Devane informed the board that two options existed — they could either continue to waive the sewer fees and have the owners maintain the pump, or they could have the owners both pay the fees and maintain the pump.

“We have to treat everyone the same,” Devane said.

“How we treat everyone is of the utmost importance,” affirmed Mayor Sylvia Campbell.

Though they seemed reticent to not continue the old agreement and publicly said they sympathized with the Lotzes, in the end, the board agreed that they must treat all residents equally and decided to uphold the town policy, requiring the Lotzes to pay monthly bills and maintain the pump.

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

By Chrysta Carroll

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