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By KEVIN KOELLING
LEOPOLD – County resident Debbie Goffinet told the county commissioners May 2 she was concerned that sewage might back up into her house if she tried to flush the toilet four days later.
She expressed the concern during what was billed as a town-hall-style meeting in the Perry Central High School library. She and her neighbors are served by a private sewer service operated by Tim Huff, who she said had issued a letter to customers saying service would be cut off May 6.
The issue had been “dumped on us,” Commissioner Tom Hauser replied. While it’s not a county issue because it is a private utility, county and Tell City officials are looking into it, the city because extending its lines into the area might provide the most feasible solution. If the county were to step in, Hauser explained, it would have to establish a sewer district, which could take two or three years. That should be seen as a last resort, he said, and echoing someone’s suggestion, he added, “I don’t think getting a lawyer is a bad idea at all.”
Huff told the News Thursday his Brushy Hollow Utilities was still functioning.
“I can hold out a while,” he said. “I can keep the blowers on and treat the waste. I won’t let waste go into the creek.”
He called connecting his system into Tell City’s “the only logical solution” to a problem he said he’s been working for five years to resolve. He originally hoped to sell 100 lots in an area just off Indiana 37 near Accent Road, but sold only 28. To sell them, he had to create the utility, “and that permit cost me $22,000,” he explained, and he had to undergo schooling to attain operator and inspector qualifications. Paving a road in the area cost another $20,000. He bought property and began selling it when it appeared more industry was coming to Perry County, but the growth he hoped to capitalize upon never came.
“I have spent a lot more than I will have ever taken in,” Huff said. “A sane person would have walked away years ago.”
He said he’s been working with officials of the Indiana Utilities Regulatory Commission and Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and told an IURC representative he would “keep treating the waste as they worked out a solution.”
County attorney Chris Goffinet told the News Thursday Huff “has been trying to make a go of this for 15 years or more,” and noted that while the county is not in the utilities business, both city and county officials are working to find funding for a solution.
A Tell City sewer line serving Branchville runs past the area, but systems would have to be installed to move sewage up what the lawyer called a “significant elevation difference.”
Those served by the struggling utility could form a conservancy district or a sewer district, Chris Goffinet also said, but they would have to find funds to upgrade the current sewer system to a status acceptable to Tell City officials.
“I won’t let it not function,” Huff told the News. “I’ve never given up on anything in my life.”
Tell City Mayor Barbara Ewing said Friday she’d been contacted by a state official who asked if the city would be willing to work with the state and county toward a solution, and she responded that she was interested in seeing what the state might propose.
“We certainly sympathize with the residents out there,” Ewing said. “They are the ones being left without services.”
She has provided information to the state, the mayor also said, and she’s awaiting feedback from them.