Sewer dispute pits City of Elkhart and Elkhart County

This week, the City of Elkhart’s plans to disconnect a couple dozen sewer customers were foiled by Elkhart County government.

The customers in question live in the county’s Valley View subdivision, but have had Elkhart city sewer services since 1992.

Some in the neighborhood don’t like new city sewer rates and rules that apply to them.

“We do not really want to see Valley View turn into Valley Forge,” said Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder. “Apparently, by the city ordinance, the mayor has the right to disconnect, but the health department has some say in this.”

At one point, the Elkhart County sheriff personally patrolled the neighborhood to keep the status quo.

“I don’t know if they expect us to draw a line in the sand and our police department to meet up with their police department out at Valley View, I’m not sure,” said Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore.

The county shut down the city’s shut off plans—by denying a permit needed to dig on county owned right of way.

“When you disconnect that sewer, that makes that house an unlivable situation certainly it’s an immediate health concern at that point as well,” said Commissioner Yoder.

At a news conference Friday afternoon, Mayor Moore offered to talk things over with county officials, but offered no apologies. “We’ve been explaining our situation for a long, long time and nothing has worked, so it doesn’t really matter to me what they say or what they think, we think we’re on the side of right or we wouldn’t be doing it.”

It’s not that the residents in question haven’t paid their bills. The problem is, they haven’t signed a revised “compact” for sewer service that includes rate changes.

“Hardly anybody in Valley View that will pay more than they did before, they’re all paying less, they’re objecting to the annexation clause,” said Mayor Moore.

The mayor was referring to a waiver those county users of city sewer services have to sign that prevents them from objecting to any future annexation attempts.

Willard Martin is a Valley View resident who says he had second thoughts about signing the agreement. “Yes, I did, then I got thinking, well, if I don’t sign and they shut it off, what am I going to do?”

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