Village waives $16,000 in water fees
By Jay Braman Jr.
Fleischmanns Village Trustees gave three property owners a free pass on their water bills Monday night, despite warnings that doing so might allow more disgruntled rate payers to come out of the woodwork looking for the same deal.
Two of those granted waivers for water bills, Brian Grocholl ($1,035.22) and Harriet Grossman ($696.97) got the treatment due to extended water problems. But the third, identified only as Mr. Mendlovic, was given a pass on no less than $14,304.99 in past due water bills.
As it turns out, Mendlovic had the village over a barrel and made trustees an offer they felt they could not refuse.
Mendlovic owns the former Flagstone Inn on Main Street. His property abuts the Mill Street bridge, which is slated for removal as part of a flood project that the trustees say is an important one for the safety of the village.
Trouble is, the village needs an easement from Mendlovic in order to make a new roadway to access the properties now served by that bridge.
According to mayor Todd Pascarella, Mendlovic said he would grant the easement if the village ripped up his water bill. He also would not negotiate.
“This was the only way we could get him to agree,” Pascarella said.
No one was sure just how it was that Mendlovic piled up such a large water bill, or how long he had been in arrears, but it was noted that the bill also covered other village properties under Mendlovic’s ownership.
Though the village board was not happy with the deal, Trustee Kathleen Rostad Miles said that, sometimes they must make hard decisions for the good of the village.
She said it was a great opportunity to get this flood project done and it was clear that Mendlovic was not going to allow it unless he got what he wanted.
Regardless, village resident Don Kearney warned that the deal was a mistake.
“You’re setting a dangerous precedent,” he said. “This man should pay his water bill.”
The village board did not discuss making Mendlovic pay the water bill and then using eminent domain to take the land needed for the new roadway.
It also remains unclear whether Mendlovic, probably one of the largest water users in the village, has paid his sewer bills.
Also unclear is how the village’s water department will make up for the lost revenue.