County orders Bazetta trustee to pay back sewage fees and $55 fine for improper sewer connection
By Ed Runyan
Township Trustee Paul Hovis has been ordered to pay $483 in back sewage fees and a $55 fine for an improper sewer connection from his house on Northview Drive to a barn he built behind it.
The penalty is for improperly connecting to a sanitary sewer without first obtaining a permit from the county. Hovis already has removed the sewer connection, says a letter to Hovis’ attorney from Atty. Matt Blair with the Trumbull County Sanitary Engineer’s Office.
Last November, Gary Newbrough, deputy county sanitary engineer, wrote to the county prosecutor’s office asking for guidance on what steps Hovis and the sanitary engineer’s office should take to correct the issue.
The prosecutor’s office recently advised that Hovis should pay for an estimated 1,000 gallons per month of sewage treatment dating back seven years and a $55 fine.
Hovis told The Vindicator in December he extended the sewer line to a barn behind his house on Northview Drive without prior authorization because he did not think the permit was necessary.
“I thought, ‘What’s the difference whether I run a bathroom to my garage or to my basement?’” Hovis said. County officials say the difference is his basement is on the same property as his house. The garage is on a separate property.
County officials say one way to provide sewer service to the barn would be to replat the two pieces of property at the county planning commission so that they become part of the same parcel.
Hovis said the barn is on agricultural property and is used to store equipment, but it had a toilet, sink and washing machine. Hovis obtained a plumbing permit from the county health department for the bathroom.
But he paid a 25 percent penalty for obtaining the permit Aug. 16, after he had already done the plumbing work. The health department first learned of the plumbing work after Bazetta resident Robyn Hineman, former Bazetta zoning board of appeals member, asked the health department to investigate Aug. 6.
When contacted by The Vindicator on Friday regarding the penalty and back sewage fees, Hovis said, “I did not think I did anything wrong, being I owned all the land,” adding he is glad he was able to “work the problem out like normal people that did something wrong.”
The letter to Hovis and his attorney says the back sewage fees are calculated at $5.75 per 1,000 gallons of sewage treated for the last seven years. The letter does not say why seven years were used except that “Per past practice, the maximum interval the county back charges for services is seven years.” The $5.75 per 1,000 gallons is the current rate in the sewer district involved. Hovis, under the name PWH Enterprises, purchased the land where the barn is now located in 2011, according to the county auditor’s office.
The letter says 1,000 gallons is a conservative estimate of how much sewage was generated, and the total of $538 is an “appropriate amount of compensation/restitution and penalty for the improper connection.”
The barn is not a permanent living space, the letter says. A permanent living space would be expected to generate 4,500 gallons of sewage per month.
The letter says county policy calls for a fine of between $10 and $100 for connecting to sewers without authorization. “The staff [of the Trumbull County Sanitary Engineer’s Office] has determined that given the relatively low amount of discharge, that an appropriate financial penalty for this violation will be $55,” the letter says.
Hovis is required to pay the $538 by May 17.