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Appeal filed in sewer lawsuit

The LaGrange County Reginal Utility District board voted Thursday to file a “cross appeal” in regard to a lawsuit with Robert and Diane Fiedler after learning that the Fiedlers had filed to appeal a ruling made on November 15.

The board also move to attach the Fiedlers’ assets to the judgement.

Board President Patrick Wiltshire went over the case for the board, noting that the district had been notified that the Fiedlers had filed a Notice of Appeal on December 16. Under the order made in November, both parties had 30 days, or until December 22, to file an intent to appeal. “It is not clear from the notice what part of the Circuit Court’s order they are appealing,” Wiltshire said.

Wiltshire told the other board members that the recommendation for the district was to not appeal the November court order. The Fiedlers’ property near Shipshewana Lake had been connected to the system. “And that was the primary objective of the case,’ Wiltshire stated.

The district also felt that it had obtained a “favorable judgement, enabling it to collect 88 percent of amounts we sought as payments and reimbursements from the defendants,” he added. The district had been awarded a total of $64,511.63 for its legal expenses.

The district should consider filing a motion to attach the award to any assets of the defendants, Wiltshire said, as well as to file a cross appeal.

The district has 30 days to file the cross appeal, by January 15. Under the cross appeal, the district may look at two issues. One is to appeal the denial for the assessed fines. The district did not agree with “the judge’s rationale for denying the applications of fines in this case,” Wiltshire said.

Secondly, the district feels that the court’s order that adjusted the amount owed for attorney fees was “improper, was counter to Indiana statues and conflicted with the court’s previous order that the defendants reimburse the district for $1,000 in legal expenses,” Wiltshire said. The judgement, Wiltshire continued, essentially reimbursed the Fiedlers for the previously paid legal expenses.

Meanwhile, two other property owners in the Shipshewana West service area remain unconnected to the system. The district had been waiting for a resolution with the Fiedlers’ case before moving ahead and feel that with the court upholding the district’s authority to have property owners connect, they can move forward.

One property is the Steven Schrock property on CR 980W. The district had previously filed a motion to have the court order Schrock to connect to the system, and on July 30, 2014, the court ordered Schrock to connect within 30 days. It was also determined that the district could fine him up to $25 per day.

Wiltshire told the board that as of December 12, 2017 Schrock had not connected to the sewer system. A total of $7,706.30 is owed to the district for unpaid sewer bills and late fees.

Wiltshire recommended that the district contact Schrock to inform him that the district has legal authority to require property owners to connect, provide him with a detailed list of the steps he must take to comply, and have him contact the district as soon as possible. The board voted to approve the recommendations.

The second unconnected property is owned by Fred and Jeanine Taylor on CR 920W. The Taylors were not part of the initial motion to connect filed in August 2013. The Taylors had asked for, and were given, a six-month extension to connect, which expired in February 2014 Wiltshire told the board. The Taylors have an outstanding balance of just over $2,000, according to numbers presented at the board meeting.

Wiltshire recommended similar action for the Taylors, providing them with a letter to have them connect, as well as a list of the steps needed to comply. The board voted to approve the recommendation.