WARREN - Municipal Judge Thomas Gysegem acquitted a Vienna woman charged with not following orders to connect property she owns in Howland to privately built sewer lines, and he says her case sets a precedent for others in the court's jurisdiction.
Gysegem declined to find Barbara George guilty "as the origin of the tie-in requirement emanated from an extension of sewer line by private residence," he wrote in his judgment entry.
"To find otherwise would constitute an impermissible non-public taking under the U.S. Constitution," the judge wrote.
George had pleaded no contest on Dec. 4 to disobeying the orders / regulations of the health department in Trumbull County, a charge that stemmed from her failure to tie a home she owns on Henn Hyde Road into a nearby sewer.
She faced a similar charge in Girard Municipal Court for a home she owns on Warren Sharon Road in Vienna.
George, who does not live at either address, is facing a $55,000 bill to connect to the sewer line that was put in by Universal Development of Girard to service its property along Warren Sharon Road near state Route 11. Under an agreement with the county, property owners like George who would tap into that line would reimburse the private developer.
In George's case, the nearly $40,000 for the home on Warren Sharon Road is more than the home is worth. The bill for the Henn Hyde Road about $12,000, plus there is a $3,600 tap-in fee to the county. The total reimbursement cost of the project was $326,002.
George, who could not find a way to pay for the connections, left the county health department with no alternative other than to charge her.
Ohio law requires residents to tap into sanitary sewer lines that run past their homes.
She was found guilty of the same charge in Warren Municipal Court in 2010 and ordered to pay only court costs, $160, records show.
This time, Gysegem called on Ohio lawmakers to correct the matter.
''The time for remedial legislative action from this intolerable, unmanageable and unconscionable circumstance which confronts scores of innocent property owners in this State is long past due,'' the judge wrote.
In addition, ''this Court hereby creates its own precedent within the confines of this narrow set of facts within its geographic jurisdiction.''
George declined to comment. Trumbull County Health Commissioner James Enyeart said he would have the health department's attorney review Gysegem's entry.
George was fined $100 in November in Girard Municipal Court on the charge related to the Warren Sharon Road property. The fine will be suspended if she connects the home to the sewer in the next 180 days.