Monday, May 15, 2006

St Leon and its Sewer People

St Leon and its Sewer People

The St. Leon Board has offered their explanations to Register Publications concerning forced connections to the St. Leon Sewage System. This present letter is very similar to one submitted to the Batesville Herald Tribune, which was attributed to the thoughts of the St. Leon Town Council but written by their taxpayer-paid lawyer. Register Publications has not seen fit to publish a rebuttal to this one sided explanation which consists of selectively chosen facts to make a case against their neighbors.

Bond deals are not as confusing as presented in their explanation.

The board maintains that in 2003 it was necessary to expand the sewer system. Why it was necessary to expand and take on more debt is unclear. Hazily they mix that questionable necessity with the need for additional sewage facility for the newly constructed East Central Intermediate School. However the school district paid the town of St. Leon over $580,000. The school laid a line of greater diameter than what St Leon’s system had and allowed St. Leon future use of their line for additional connections, which means more income for the St. Leon Sewage system.

The board maintains that the bondholders demanded that all houses in St. Leon and its jurisdiction must connect to the system to insure that the bond holder get their interest payments and that the bonds at their time of expiration will be repurchased thus returning the money loaned via the bonds back to the bondholders.

Bondholders do NOT dictate terms. They simply buy a given bond as it is described in the bond prospectus. If someone interested in a bond does not like the terms of its payments or the risk involved in purchasing the bond they simply don’t buy that bond. This is not complicated.

Since Town Council members are not financially sophisticated, one wonders who aided them or urged them to expand their system in 2003 beyond what the middle school needed and financed. Who urged them to institute coerced sewer connections? Further expansion required the large sums of money that were raised by selling more bonds.

There are some questions about this expansion. Who advised or perhaps urged the Town Council to expand their system. Could it have been developers who wanted sewage for intended tightly packed subdivisions? Could it have been the company that derives income from running and maintaining the sewage system? We will never know answers to those two questions. Was that expansion unnecessary? Was the expansion a mistake?

There are two ways to relieve this crushing burden placed upon our friends and neighbors by the Town Council.

First we could simply let the thing go into bankruptcy. This would entail cessation of interest payments on the bonds, and the elimination of coerced connections with their resultant fees. We would go back to our status prior to 2003, perhaps prior to 1996 - the time of the beginning of the system.

Secondly, we could go to the state and/or Federal Government to try to get them to raise the few million dollars that it would take to buy back the bonds from the bondholders at this time. That would cure the bond requirement that alleges that everyone in St. Leon and in the jurisdiction of the Sewer Board must connect to the system. The sum of money involved would not be much as far as the State or Federal government is concerned. It is an enormous sum of money for a town in a county where the median income as reported in the last census is $43,000.

The proffered idea that the Town Council of St. Leon may offer amortization of the connection fees does not help. The money plus the interest on the loans must still be paid. The letter writers omitted mentioning the crushing costs of buying and maintaining the grinder pump and the cost of excavation to lay a sewage pipe from the property owner’s house to the sewer line. For people who live on low fixed incomes from pensions and those who live from paycheck to paycheck with little to no elasticity in their disposable income in the face of increasing inflation, amortization is no answer. It is demeaning, it is cruel and it demonstrates either an egregious lack of compassion towards their neighbors on the part of these of those coercing sewer connections or it demonstrates their total lack of understanding of what they have done.

Unfortunately, as we try to relieve our friends and neighbors of the cruel and crushing financial burden placed upon them, the company that runs the sewage system for St. Leon has submitted a 37-page proposal to expand the system further. The costs being entertained for this expansion vary from a low of nearly $4 million to a high of well over $5 million.

Who is urging the town council to do this further expansion?

Lastly there is the murky business of the impending lawsuits against our friends and neighbors instigated by this misbegotten project. There are said to be 130 homes according to the Town Council that should be connected. 18 People have been notified of the legal action being taken against them. Is the Town Council going to take action against all 130 of these people or just a few? How have they decided who was to be sued and who was not to be sued at this time? Is the idea that instead of suing all 130 homeowners (who could mount a more economical and powerful defense) they plan to sue small numbers of individuals in court? Perhaps they fear a unified defense from all 130 homeowners against their taxpayer paid law firms.

The coerced connection to a perhaps misbegotten sewer system is an example of the arrogant unrestrained use of power and wealth by those unaccustomed to the use of either or both.

It is unfortunate that this muddled problem has allegedly produced threats, insults, and perhaps business reprisals against the Town Council members. However that fearless president, Harry Truman, said it all with his memorable metaphor: “ If you can’t stand the heat, get of the kitchen.”

Alan Stanley Freemond, Sr.
Jackson Township

No comments: