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Feature Stories for September 7, 2000

The STAR is distributed every Thursday.  
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Landfill suit ends in county win
IDEM ruling helped in victory over a contract dispute with Waste Management

By Andrew Steele 
Star Managing Editor

CROWN POINT - Lake Superior Court Judge James Richards ruled last week that the Lake County Solid Waste Management District did not illegally break a contract with Waste Management to construct and operate a landfill in Eagle Creek Township. 
    Richards issued his ruling Aug. 30. It resolves a suit brought by Waste Management in 1998 after the county waste district's Board of Directors declared a 1996 landfill contract void. 
    When it nullified the contract in June 1998, the board majority argued the Indiana Department of Environmental Management had invited the action with a ruling that the contract's 30-year landfill was too big. The state agency said it would only approve a landfill with a 20-year lifespan. 
    The board's decision also reflected intense political pressure from south Lake County residents opposed to the landfill. 
    Waste board President Gerry Scheub, also a county commissioner, said last week that "we are pleased that the court ruled in favor of the district and found that the district's action to terminate the landfill contract was justified. We are very pleased with the judge's decision." 
    The written statement was the only one Scheub would make, "due to pending litigation." That "pending litigation" is a lawsuit filed by Hickory Hills Development, LLC, the original landfill development company, against Waste Management, USA Waste Services-Hickory Hills, the Lake County Solid Waste Management District, Scheub, Crown Point Mayor James Metros, and waste district Executive Director Jeffrey Langbehn. 
    The lawsuit claims damages as a result of the landfill not being constructed. It alleges the various defendants worked illegally to overturn the contract.


Cedar Lake finalizes phase II sewer project
IDEM officials approve permits for construction of sewer taps

By Kathie Godfrey 
Star Correspondent

SOUTH LAKE COUNTY - "We're getting the taps - 200 of them," said Cedar lake Town Council President Bob Brannon (D-4th) after his meeting with Indiana Department of Environmental Management officials in Indianapolis last week. 
    Brannon said the long delay in releasing the promised sewer taps is over. When Cedar Lake finalizes its schedule for Phase II of its sewer improvement project to remove additional inflow and infiltration and "buy back" capacity from the treatment plan, IDEM officials have agreed to approve construction permits and issue the taps, he said. 
    "Things are moving along as planned. It's business as usual." said Brannon, who added that he was delighted that the meeting with Cedar Lake Sewer Engineer Ron Bonar and IDEM officials Matt Rueff and Felicia Robinson last Thursday had proved fruitful at last. 
    "After an hour we were ready to close the deal," he said. "IDEM was eager to get things worked out." 
    Brannon said he though a recent face-to-face talk that Lowell Town Council President Robert Hatch (R-3rd), had with Indiana Governor Frank O'Bannon might have had some positive impact on his request for sewer taps promised by the state. In any case officials in both towns who've been frustrated by the delay in ending the two-year-old sewer ban are hopeful that the end is now in sight. 
    Hatch said his Aug. 24 meeting with O'Bannon was prompted by his disappointment over the loss of this year's construction season in which Lowell had hoped to regain some ground lost during the long sewer ban. 

   "Like Bob (Brannon) said, there are 16,000 people being affected by this decision. They're a government agency and are supposed to serve the citizens." 
    Hatch said it had been his understanding with IDEM State Revolving Fund Section Chief Bruno Piggott, that when litigation between the two towns was dropped in July, sewer taps would be immediately forthcoming. 
    "This was a communication breakdown," he said. "The people we had talked to didn't talk to people from enforcement and one hand didn't know what the other hand was doing." 
    Matt Rueff, IDEM assistant commissioner of water programs at IDEM, said Lowell would be issued taps following their reclassification as a partially combined storm and sanitary system within the next few weeks. 
    "Their reclassification will increase their capacity significantly," Rueff said Tuesday. "Once their National Pollutant discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit process is complete, we'll modify their agreed order and issue the taps." 
    Rueff said a proposed agreed order was being drafted for Cedar Lake this week that would outline performance steps in a plan to reduce Cedar Lake's flows to the sewer plant. 
    "Once the agreed order is signed, we will issue construction permits," Rueff said. "When performance steps are complete, the sewer hook-ups can be made." 
    Rueff said although Cedar Lake's agreed order would have a final completion date of June 1, 2001, he expected their sewer rehabilitation project to be completed this fall. 
    "We've been making some positive moves," Rueff said of his recent meetings with officials in Lowell and Cedar Lake. "We have a positive relationship with the towns and have got everyone on the same page.


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