(Rolling Prairie, IN) - Residents in Rolling Prairie are uneasy about their town’s pending sewer expansion.
About twenty residents gathered at the Rolling Prairie Library earlier this week to compare notes on the second phase of a public sewer line that is set to begin construction. Most in attendance were either unaware of the development or opposed to it.
The first phase was completed in 2013. Now the Regional Sewer and Water District intends to hook up the rest of the town. They’ve received a $2 million grant to install the infrastructure. But the operating costs will be passed along to residents, who are now being forced to hook up.
Residents like Kathleen Miller don’t like the prospects or the price tag of the new service. “I’m a widow on a very, very tight budget. I do not have the money, and I don’t know where it’s going to come from,” she said after Monday’s meeting. “And apparently, from what I understand, the lift station is going to be right in my back yard, and that’s the first I heard of that.”
Some residents say notification from the county dated in January didn’t reach them until last month. And others didn’t know about the next phase until construction equipment showed up in front of their houses last week. According to County Planning Director Mitch Bishop, three certified letters were sent out to all effected residents at various points in the process.
Miller said her daughter’s previous experience with the phase I hookup has her concerned now. “My daughter was in on phase I. She ended up paying over $4,000 and still has to pay the $78 a month and is told if she misses a month, they’ll put a lien on her house.”
A few residents at the meeting acknowledged the need for the upgrade. Robert Chance said his septic system is in good shape, and he has the room to update it when necessary, but not many of his neighbors are as lucky. “I know there are people who absolutely need it,” he said. “Septic systems were not really made for cities as a permanent thing. We need something better than that.”
Steve Everingham agreed. He has been living in Rolling Prairie for 30 years, and his septic system also works fine. “I’m not totally against putting in a new sewer system,” he said. “But I think the expense is too high for most people…and if they could get some kind of assistance and also reduce the cost of the sewage system to something similar to what La Porte residents pay, it would be more fair.”
County leaders say the expansion is a done deal. In fact, work started on it this week. Now residents are trying to figure out how they can follow the law without breaking the bank. Planning Director Mitch Bishop said a few options may be available to residents for financial relief.
Some residents feel like they’re just getting the run-around as work progresses. Rolling Prairie’s Mike Strieter, who helped organize this week’s meeting, said he was advised to take up the matter with the La Porte County Commissioners. When several residents spoke at this week’s Commissioners’ meeting, they were told to contact the La Porte County Regional Sewer and Water District.
Strieter said at this point residents are just looking for guidance. “I don’t want anyone on the other side of the fence to feel bullied,” he said, “but we feel like we’re being bullied.”