COLUMBIA CITY — After months of protesting, arguing and public comment, the Whitley County Regional Sewer District board decided to remove Stable Acres from the current list of projects.

The decision was not met with the raucous applause that had become commonplace among the regular meeting attendees from Stable Acres, though. The excitement was tempered by caveats from board member Don Amber and board president Chad Nix, who advised that once it is out of the sewer district’s hands, it was the responsibility of the Whitley County Department of Health.

“My biggest concern is the fact that it’s going to get ugly when they start mandating it out of the health department,” Nix said. “It’s not going to be cheap and that’s my biggest worry for those residents.”

Earlier in the meeting, Lana Beregszazi advised the board and audience about the new water tests taken in the area of Stable Acres that did, in fact, test positive for E. Coli. As they have done for weeks, the residents of Stable Acres disputed the results questioning where the samples were taken and the fact that the source of the E. Coli has not been identified.

Amber came to the health department’s defense, stating that it is possible to go more in-depth with the testing by testing every property and doing additional tests to determine the source, but that it would cost the county more and more money to do so.

After all was said and done, Amber moved to remove Stable Acres from the project list and the motion passed 3-2 with Amber, Walt Crowder and Mark Pepple voting in favor of it. Nix and Brooks Langeloh cast the dissenting votes.

“I wish you guys luck,” Nix said. “It scares me to death.”

Southeast Jefferson Township

Changes were also made by the board to the Southeast Jefferson Township area project. Like Stables Acres, this project is met with opposition from residents who are not thrilled with the idea of being required to link up to a sewer line. They also disputed the results of the health department water tests done in that area for the same reasons as Stable Acres.

Pete Eshelman, owner of the Joseph Decuis Farm property, who has agreed to privately fund the new sewer line, voiced his support for the board’s decisions thus far.

“I believe connecting my property to the sewer is the best approach for environmental stewardship,” Eshelman.

Given the pushback by other Southeast Jefferson residents about the continued changing of the sewer line’s route, the board decided to revert the plan back to its original form, which would see the line going east from County Road 900S and County Line Road to Aqua Indiana. The motion passed 4-1 with Langeloh as the dissenting vote, explaining that Eshelman should be able to choose which route works best for him since he is footing the bill.

There was also talk of potentially making the hook-ups optional, but the board emphasized again that if the health department gets involved further down the road, it’s going to cost homeowners much more than it would through the sewer district project.

Project Progress

The board was also tasked with selecting companies to handle the design and engineering phase of the projects set to move forward.

Beregszazi informed the board that the absence of Stable Acres complicated things a bit. She pointed out that the three companies who submitted proposals had prices that included work on Stable Acres, so they were no longer accurate.

“The problem with pulling out Stable Acres, purely from an engineering award perspective, is that the cost savings from a design perspective assumes there are three projects in the same general area,” Beregszazi said. “Pricing will likely not be the same.”

In addition, Beregszazi reminded everyone that the project in Laud had been tied to Stable Acres due to its high project costs. The removal of Stable Acres essentially meant the Laud project was no longer feasible and thus essentially removed from the list as well. Coesse will now remain its own project.

In the end, the board voted 5-0 to hire VS Engineering Inc. for the west and south Churubusco projects, and Commonwealth Engineers Inc. for the Dunfee and East County Line project. It was decided that VS and Commonwealth would be asked to produce new proposals for the now-solo Coesse project.

Updates were also given on the three inter-local partnership agreements in the works. Beregszazi stated that the agreement with Churubusco was all but ready to be signed, they were just waiting on the town’s attorney to look it over and give his final OK. In Columbia City, according to engineer Ted Nitza, the agreement has remained stalled as the city waits for its rate consultant to come back with a wholesale rate for the district.

Discussions with Aqua Indiana have also seen little progress, Beregszazi said, as the company still insists on charging its usual hook-up fee of $1,300 as opposed to giving the sewer district a reduced rate.