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Waste Watch: Lawrenceburg Concrete Part II
LAWRENCEBURG, Indiana (Jeff Hirsh) -- Previously Local 12 brought you a program in Lawrenceburg which provides concrete construction to residents and businesses.
The state says it's against the law and costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. They say it's public money without a legitimate public purpose. Local 12's Jeff Hirsh looks at homeowner reaction and asks this question: will Lawrenceburg finally stop what the state has been telling them to stop for several years?
It's a story you will see only on local 12 News.
Meyerfield drive is where the concrete gravy train stopped this summer. 11 houses, nine of them received free or reduced rate work.
Like Nancy Seymour, We had a new driveway put in, new sidewalk to the porch, new steps.
Seymour is being charged 2,500 dollars but figures it would cost more than twice that amount without the city subsidy.
Seymour is not aware of the troubles surrounding the concrete program. It's not like the city advertises that. But proof is just a few streets away.
This house is a classic example of how Lawrenceburgs off right of way concrete program got off track. According to court papers, the city agreed to do work at Robert Moullan's house in 2009. They did a new driveway, new sidewalk, new steps and a new patio. Moullan's bill was more than 28,000 dollars to be paid over four years. But the documents say Moullan paid only 950 dollars total, and nothing since September, 2012.
New Mayor Dennis Carr wrote to Moullan, Start paying or we'll sue.
Moullan's hand written response said, The agreement I made with the city was $100. I was under the impression some people didn't pay anything on their account.
The city settled with Moullan out of court. Hell resume paying.
Remember, Moullan's original bill from the city for all that work was about 28,000 dollars, but under the program, homeowners only paid a percentage of the total cost.
So, how much would the work have cost Moullan on his own?
Moullan told me the contractor said 120-150 thousand dollars.
The contractor did not just eat that amount. The city of Lawrenceburg and its taxpayers, picked up the tab the company which did the work.
During the state audit years we inspected are Dave OMara contractors from north Vernon, Indiana , still working in Lawrenceburg.
Local 12 called that company twice for reaction, no response.
Meantime, at last, the city is starting to go after residents who have big unpaid bills.
Leslie Votaw is Lawrenceburgs new city attorney, who met with auditors for the rest time last year. Votaw says the city apparently wanted to drop the program years ago but kept it going to head off a class action suit by residents who had not gotten their freebies. They're saying all these other people received the benefit, and now you're going to stop it, and they felt slighted in some way and so it's been going ever since.
The city telling auditors Lawrenceburg did not want to discontinue the practice until the concrete program had been offered to all property owners. A program the city attorney says has resulted in remarkable improvements to the city as a whole.
Finally, however, City Attorney Votaw says Lawrenceburg will wrap up the program this year, five years after the state said it's illegal.
The mayor has sent out collection notices, and for the first time, Lawrenceburg is also suing about 30 residents for back payments and expects to collect about 50,000 dollars.
Without conceding it broke the law, Lawrenceburg is conceding that maybe the state auditors had a point.
But Lawrenceburg will never collect all of what's owed, not even close.
Confusing paperwork, incomplete contracts, and a statute of limitations on collections all get in the way. With all those issues, it's impossible to determine how much Lawrenceburg has actually spent on free and subsidized concrete over the years. But if you figure the 75/25 split it could be several million dollars in a town of just five thousand people.
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