By Ed Runyan
The Trumbull County Sanitary Engineer’s Office has asked the county prosecutor’s office to advise what Bazetta Township Trustee Paul Hovis must do about a sewer line he extended from his house to a pole barn on property he owns behind his house.
The sanitary engineer’s office wrote a Nov. 20 letter to the civil attorneys in the prosecutor’s office explaining that Hovis extended his sewer connection “without procuring a sanitary sewer permit from this department.”
The letter offers four suggestions for how the matter might be resolved, including one that would cost Hovis $14,025 in front footage costs and tap-in fee and a new monthly sewage bill of $37.08. Two of the three other options appear to eliminate the $14,025 frontage fee, but all three other options would require Hovis to start paying the monthly fee and a tap-in fee of about $2,700.
The first option would involve Hovis’ paying a frontage fee of $40.18 per foot on 281.86 feet on state Route 46 and a tap-in fee of $2,700.
Hovis’ house is on Northview Drive, but the pole barn is on a large, separate parcel that fronts Route 46. The barn is 1,300 feet from Route 46, Hovis told The Vindicator, adding that under state law, he cannot be forced to tie into a sewer line that far from the road.
The letter, written by Gary Newbrough, deputy sanitary engineer, did not mention any type of fine or fee for Hovis’ having made the connection without permission, but it says the connection “appears to be a violation of the Rules and Regulations for Trumbull County’s Sanitary Sewer Systems.”
When asked about the matter, Hovis said the pole barn is on agricultural property and is used to store equipment, but it has a bathroom for which he received a plumbing permit from the county General Health District. He said he also spoke with county Planning Commission staff about the property.
However, the health district says Hovis applied for the plumbing permit Aug. 16, after he had already done the plumbing work, including a bathroom, sink and washing machine. Hovis paid a $32.50 (25 percent) penalty for having applied for the permit after the work was done.
Health district emails obtained by The Vindicator indicate sanitarian Steven Kramer received an inquiry about Hovis’ pole barn from Northview resident Robyn Hineman, a former Bazetta zoning board of appeals member, Aug. 6. Kramer inspected the property and informed an employee of the sanitary engineer’s office Aug. 7 that Hovis told him he had extended the sewer line for his house to the barn.
Hineman told The Vindicator she called the health district after learning that the pole barn had a bathroom but no permit from the sanitary engineer’s office.
Hovis told The Vindicator he ran the sewer line to the barn while fixing a defect in a sewer lateral in his back yard.
He said he’s “been in and out of the hospital” since April 2017 and did not have time “to follow up on” other steps he might take, such as having the lots replatted through the planning commission.
When asked why he didn’t talk to the sanitary engineer’s office before running the line, he said, “I thought, ‘What’s the difference whether I run a bathroom to my garage or to my basement?’”
County Commissioner Frank Fuda, who was asked by Hineman to look into the matter in November after not hearing much from the sanitary engineer’s office, said one difference is that Hovis is a township trustee.
“He should know better than to tie into the line like that.”
Newbrough’s letter noted that the rules do allow, in some cases, for the “joint use of a sanitary sewer service connection by more than one structure if all structures are located on the same parcel. However, in this case, the structures are located on different parcels.”
Among the options in Newbrough’s letter is one that would allow Hovis to connect the barn to the Northview sewer main. It would require Hovis to grant an easement from his home to the pole-barn property.
Hovis said he will do “whatever the prosecutor says” he needs to do to make the situation right.
The prosecutor’s office has not yet given a response.