2009-10-10 / News

New septic inspection fee turned down

By Scott Rawdon

LANCASTER – The Fairfield Department of Health’s District Advisory Council recently narrowly defeated a proposed $65 septic system inspection fee, 13 votes against to 12 in favor.

The fee was to be charged to each property owner using a septic system following their inspection, which would take place roughly every five years. Earlier this year, the health department cancelled an annual $40 septic system fee. Some property owners complained they never were inspected, even thought they paid the fee.

Liberty Township Trustee Nancy Montell attended the advisory council meeting, which was packed with concerned citizens. She said those who favored the fee wanted to see “black water,” or raw sewage seeping to the surface, controlled. Montell said most of the District Advisory Council’s voting members who favored the fee live in areas with centralized sewer systems. She said people in areas with septic tanks believe the fee is penalizing them, but they do agree that something needs to be done about the black water.

“Popular or not, if a fee is charged it must be well thought out and fair. This one was not, in my opinion,” said Montell. She said she’s heard from residents who say they’re still receiving $40 inspection fee bills even though the fee was abolished.

Fairfield Department of Health’s Director of Environmental Health Larry Hanna said the $40 fee was abolished in March of this year, but that isn’t effective until next year, which is why some people are still being billed. The $65 fee was proposed to replace the $40 fee. He doubts the rejection will be appealed, so it’s likely there won’t be a formal inspection program for septic systems starting next year.

“That’s what it’s going to boil down to,” he said. Inspections will be conducted on a “complaint only” basis, said Hanna. He’s concerned, however, that the department will be overwhelmed with citizen complaints because without regular inspections small problems will likely have to turn into major problems before they are detected.

Resident Dale Jones said he is unhappy that Trustee Ivan Ety, who represents Liberty Township on the District Advisory Panel, voted for the $65 fee. He said Ety claimed he’d received no complaints about the fee, but Jones said he was aware that Montell and Trustee Tim Linkhorn received many complaints. Although the fee was defeated, Jones wondered why Ety didn’t discuss the fee ahead of time with the other trustees and receive public input. “The point is, he voted for something we don’t want,” said Jones.

“They didn’t offer anything until after the fact,” said Ety, adding that the advisory panel “worked all summer” on the proposed $65 fee. To his knowledge, no one said anything against the fee until the vote was already cast. He thought the $65 was fair because it charged everyone who owned septic tanks, not just specific types of systems as the $40 fee does, and the $65 fee was only to be assessed after the inspection. The $40 fee is assessed whether the septic system is inspected or not.

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