SSD says it will appeal small claims ruling
On Oct. 24, Judge Roy McFarland ruled in favor of Lauren Agyriadis in small claims court and ordered the SSD to reconnect the sewer line to her McDow Street home without charge.
The judge said Agyriadis bought the tax-delinquent property from the county believing it was “free of all encumbrances of any kind existing before the sale,” as advertised by the county.
After purchasing the property, Agyriadis discovered the sewer line had been cut and she would have to pay to have the line repaired and reconnected.
SSD had severed the sewer line and disconnected service in July 1999, but the agency never filed a lien against the property because the property owner was deceased.
Feeling she’d been wronged, Agyriadis didn’t get mad, and, as the old television commercial suggested, she took them to court.
The judge took no action against the city. Craig Platt from the city’s water department said the city can only provide water if there is a sewer connection because the water has to have somewhere to go.
Once Agyriadis has a sewer connection, Platt said, she could have water. That’s not a problem.
The assessor’s office was in court simply because it sold the property to Agyriadis.
“There should have been an assessment” from SSD, McFarland said after hearing Agyriadis’ testimony and reviewing the advertisement for the property. “There should have been a lien. I don’t know why there wasn’t a lien. I don’t know why there wasn’t a judgment.”
Despite an argument from Egan that such tax-delinquent properties are sold “as is,” McFarland said Agyriadis believed the property was free from encumbrances because that’s how the county advertised it. The judge said Agyriadis should have assumed ownership of the property as advertised.
Egan also pointed out that SSD’s reconnection fee is a normal cost borne by every property owner who seeks a new sewer connection.
So the judge finally ruled and the question’s finally solved, right? Nope. Not by a long shot.
Randy O’Hern, the general manager at SSD, said he plans to appeal last week’s decision because he was not notified of the proceeding and therefore did not attend.
“Unfortunately, the court never sent us a notice,” O’Hern said. “We never received anything. We’re going to appeal the decision. We’d just like the judge to hear our position. If he rules against us, that’s fine, but I think he ought to hear our side.”
O’Hern said he was at the Oct. 5 hearing when the judge set the matter for Oct. 24, but he thought he would receive notification of the new trial date from the court.
“Shame on me,” O’Hern said if he improperly missed the hearing. “I was under the impression the court would send us some document to set the date.”
O’Hern defended SSD’s actions. He said Agyriadis is being treated the same as any other SSD customer seeking to set up a new account with SSD after the previous service had been terminated and the sewer connection severed.
“We’re just trying to be consistent,” O’Hern said. “We’re just trying to be fair to everybody.”
Ironically, an earlier ruling against Agyriadis was set aside on Thursday, Oct. 5, because she missed a small claims court date. The court changed the date of her hearing but mailed the notice to the wrong address. When Agyriadis failed to appear, the court ruled against her. Agyriadis told the court she did not receive the notice of the date change until after the court date.
At deadline, a new court date had not be set.
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