Couple wins fight for sewer

LORDSTOWN – Thirteen years after they began a fight with the village to get sanitary sewer lines in front of their Newton Falls Bailey Road property, Don and Gloria Baker may finally get their wish.

The couple learned this week that Judge Ronald Rice ruled in their favor and will require village officials to have sanitary sewer lines placed in front of the nearly 15 acres of property.

“Justice finally is being served,” Gloria Baker said. “This has restored my faith in the court system.”

Rice’s ruling is the first step in the process. The amount of financial damages will be determined through a separate civil trial that has not been scheduled.

“We do not believe in suing anyone,” Gloria Baker said. “Taking someone to court is unlike me. It is not something I really believe in, but it has been the only way to get the village to finally do what they were supposed to do.”

The couple has been trying to have the line placed in front of the undeveloped property since 2000.

The Bakers say they were told at the time the sanitary sewer lines would be placed in front of their property because a nearby property owner was installing a line. However, that property owner connected to a different line, so the line was never installed.

The Bakers didn’t find that out, however, until 2007, when they sold the property.

“We felt a moral obligation to fight for the lines, since they purchased the property with the understanding that the sewer lines would be there,” Gloria Baker said.

So, in 2007 the Bakers went before the village’s utility committee, explained what happened and were told that a line could be placed in front of the property for $10,500. In 2008 the full village council voted have Rudzik Excavating do the work for $19,225.

Then-Councilmen Arno Hill and Robert Bond in 2008 voted against the work, and so it was never done.

In 2011, the village passed an ordinance repealing the 2008 ordinance accepting the Rudzik Excavating bid.

Rice’s ruling said the 2011 ordinance “… was passed in an attempt to avoid the Lordstown obligation of the sewer extension. The court finds Lordstown cannot shirk its duty to confer the benefit …”

Furthermore, Rice did not accept the village’s argument that it could not do the work because Rudzik could not do the work at the original price.

“It is unreasonable for Lordstown to inexcusably refuse to perform the work which was bid and accepted for so long only to then point the finger at Rudzik for his inability to perform the work at the same price,” Rice wrote.

Hill, now the village’s mayor, said the village still doesn’t want to extend the line.

“I will have to go back to our solicitor and to the council to see what they want to do,” he said.

Gloria Baker said they re-purchased the property from the young couple they sold it to earlier this year because they were not able to build a home on it while waiting for the conclusion of the fight with the village.

“This was a financial burden for both of us,” she said. “We probably will try to get it cleaned up and put it back on the market. This was just a terrible thing. They (the village) promised to do something and they did not do it.”