Vevay Town Council dilemma: Who’s responsible for Firth Addition water break?

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Don Steffen of the Firth Addition on the west end of Vevay came to Monday’s meeting of the Vevay Town Council to discuss a leak in a water line that is supplying water to the residents of that housing development.

He asked the town council to fix the leak, which is located on his property — but it wasn’t quite as simple as that.

The problem is that the Firth Addition is not within the town limits of Vevay, and the line itself even became a question.

The Firth Addition was supplied water at one time by wells located in the area, but when those wells could no longer supply water, town councilman Pete Furnish said that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management asked the town to run a water line to the area so that residents would have water.

“It was an emergency situation,” Pete Furnish said. “ IDEM asked us to get them water, so we ran a line down there and put a meter on it and allowed the people to hook onto it.”

Because the addition is not in the town limits, the town at that time installed a single water meter, with all water flowing into the addition going through that single meter. On the other side of the meter, water lines that were installed privately and not by the town carried the water back into the addition and then branched off to private homes.

That line running back from the meter has had a leak in it for quite some time, and that leak is on Don Steffen’s property.

“The town says that it’s not their problem, but it’s a main line,” Don Steffen said to the town council. “If I’m going to have to pay to have it fixed, then someone’s going to have to reimburse me.”

Town utilities superintendent Terry Brindley said that the town’s line — and responsibility — stops at the meter, just like with a homeowner in town. He said that when IDEM asked the town to run the line about 10 years ago, it was only allowed to go as far as the meter, but after that the responsibility lies with the property owner.

“You’re not in the town limits of Vevay,” Pete Furnish said.

“You’re losing an awful lot of water,” Don Steffen replied.

Terry Brindley said that in the past when a property owner in the Firth Addition has had a water leak, they have fixed it and paid for it themselves. He feared that other property owners wouldn’t be happy if the town paid for this repair.

But while both sides debate the issue, water is leaking out onto the ground. Because there is only a single meter leading into the addition, each of the property owners pays the minimum water bill — so the leak is not affecting their bills, but it is costing the town money in water lost and chemicals to treat that water.

“Some way or another, we need to fix this problem, because it’s not going to fix itself,” Pete Furnish said.

“If we fix someone’s now, we’re opening up a can of worms for all of those people who have paid to have things fixed in the past,” councilman Keith Smith said. “They are going to have a complaint.”

“Something needs to get done, because we can’t just have that water pouring out down there,” councilman Jamie Hayes said. “Let’s do something. Either let it leak or fix it or let it run out on the ground. Whatever it is, we’ve got to do something.”

Keith Smith restated his position that it was a matter for the property owner, and then looked at Don Steffen.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t see how the town can pay to fix that,” Keith Smith said.

“That’s okay,” Don Steffen responded. “I’ll just let it leak.”

The council continued its discussions until Pete Furnish suggested that the town pay half of the repair bill, if Don Steffen would pay the other half.

“Would you be willing to help us out fixing it? Maybe 50-50?” Pete Furnish asked.

“I’d go along with that,” Don Steffen responded.

Pete Furnish then made a motion to share the cost of the repair with Don Steffen, noting that the town council would look at each situation on a case-by-case basis, and he did not want to set a precedent. Jamie Hayes seconded the motion, and both voted in favor.

Keith Smith opposed the motion.

“I’m opposed to this, I’m sorry,” the new council president said. “I just think that down the road it just creates problems. We have to be fair to everyone.”

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In other business discussed by the Vevay Town Council:

— The town is continuing to work with Mike Meyer from SEICO Engineering about the fence that surrounds the new water tank. It was noted that the hill is still moving, but is not as bad as it was initially. The council tabled the issue until the next meeting.

— Terry Brindley and Bob Hensley have made a list of potholes around town that need to be addressed. Town clerk treasurer Donna Graham will give the list to Ronnie Gregory of Dave O’Mara Paving.

— Martha Bladen of the Switzerland County Historical Society updated the council on what is going on with the various museums and the activities of the society. She noted that the “Life on the Ohio” River History Museum had close to 2,000 visitors in its first year of operation, and that the Vevay-Switzerland County Foundation has donated the antiques once owned by Paul Ogle to the society for display in the Living History Museum and the county museum.

She asked for a donation of $7,000 to help with operational funds for the society. The council approved this.

— Angie Satterfield of the Switzerland County Fairboard asked the town council to provide $20,000 toward the paving of the parking area by the community building, the drive through the midway area, and access ramps for buildings at the fairgrounds. The county is providing 75-percent of the funds. The town council approved this request.

— Mike McCoy was hired as a new patrolman in Vevay. David McFadden was granted a leave of absence for health reasons, and the town will continue to carry his health insurance while he is on leave.