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Fairland looking for break on sewer fees

Fairland officials are looking for relief from big sewer bills that have come on the heels of the opening of the district's new high school.

They have agreed to meet with Lawrence County Commissioners, the Union-Rome Sewer District Advisory Board and district manager Tim Porter in an effort to see if it is possible to reduce both the size of the tap fee and the size of the monthly bills. They also want to know if the school system will be responsible for upkeep of a lift station that handles waste from the new building.

Fairland Superintendent Jerry McConnell said district officials were originally told the tap fee would be $25,600. That figure was later reduced to $19,200, but McConnell contends that figure is still excessively high.

"We want the commission to look at this and make a decision in regards to whether Fairland should have to pay any connection fee," McConnell said when he first approached the commission Thursday about the sewer bill problems.

"We want to know if this is appropriate for everyone. Does everyone have to pay such a high tap fee? I hope you see the importance of why we came here."

"I think this is kind of outrageous," said Fairland school board member Charles Workman, who attended the meeting with McConnell.

Workman, who is also on the advisory board, said some advisory board members talked about the district's tap fee at a meeting a couple of months ago and other members expressed a similar sentiment then.

McConnell also contends that even though enrollment has only increased by approximately 10 students over last year's enrollment, the district's sewer bill has increased dramatically.

McConnell said last year's average bill was $393. On Oct. 7, the district received a bill for $1,820.32.

Porter, who attended the meeting, said he would look into why the bill for the new high school is so much larger than the ones incurred at the old high school.

McConnell said he is also concerned that the district will incur the sewer system's standard 15-percent penalty while the issue is being resolved.

Commissioner George Patterson indicated he thought the penalty should be waived.

"There's no sense adding to what they already have," Patterson said.

Commission President Jason Stephens expressed optimism that the issue could be resolved in a manner that would be fair to the school

district and to the sewer system, that until recently was in a financial crisis.

"We need to look at this. I think it should be easily addressed," Stephens said. "I think this is something we can work out to protect the interest of the sewer system, and still I respect where you're coming from."