Car dealer threatens to leave Lisbon over sewer situation

LISBON – The owners of a local automobile dealership are threatening to move back to Elkton by Monday unless the village reconnects them to the municipal sanitary sewer system, something officials say is impossible given the current circumstances.

Susan Mullen, who owns and operates the Elkton Auto Corral with her husband, attended Tuesday’s Village Council meeting to say they were prepared to move their used car dealership back to its original Elkton location if sewer service was not restored to the business.

“It’s been fun to be in your village but as of Monday our business will be back in Elkton,” she told council.

The couple purchased the former Quinn Chevrolet dealership at a 2012 bank auction for $98,500 and moved the Elkton Auto Corral to the location shortly thereafter. The Mullens did not discover until later the building had no sewer service, having been cut off when the village installed a storm sewer system along South Jefferson Street prior to the sale.

The Mullens showed up at the February and March council meetings asking to be reconnected, saying their customers and employees could not use the restrooms, which had to be pumped out. Council agreed to reimburse them for billing the business since 2012 for sewer service it was not receiving, but declined to take any further action.

The village is concerned because of contamination issues left over from an old BP gas station located on the dealership property more than 35 years ago. During the storm sewer project some fuel believed to be from the underground storage tanks was found in the sanitary sewer lateral lines. Although some remediation has occurred at the dealership property, it has yet to be determined if any contamination still exists.

Village officials have told Mullen that Ohio Environmental Protection Agency rules and liability issues prevent them from reconnecting the sewer line until they know conclusively there is no longer any residual fuel in the dealership’s sewer lines or property.

“It is an environmental issue, and it is (BP) … that caused the problem. We don’t have anything in writing saying it is safe to dig,” said Village Solicitor Virginia Barborak.

Mullen said the environmental firm performing testing at the dealership on BP’s behalf told her preliminary indications are that any remaining contamination is minimal and should not be a concern.

Mayor Dan Bing told her that was not good enough, and they need something in writing and it likely has to also be run past the OEPA. “We just can’t dig. We’re liable,” he said.

Barborak suggested Mullen was unable to understand the village’s position despite repeated attempts to explain it to her. “I can’t help it if you don’t understand, and I’m trying to be respectful,” she said, adding, “Everyone here values your business.”

It was at this point that Mullen threatened to move the business, prompting Barborak to ask if this meant they no longer needed any help getting sewer service.

Mullen then told Barborak she overheard Barborak call her a “stupid (expletive)” as Barborak prepared to meet in executive session at a prior council meeting to discuss the controversy, which Barborak denied. Mullen said Barborak even later apologized for making the alleged derogatory comment, but Barborak said she apologized for something else.

Mullen bristled at any suggestion by Barborak that she was not smart enough to grasp the situation. “I’m very educated. I have five college degrees,” she said.

Barborak then refused to make any further comment “based on what you (Mullen) just said.”

Councilman Joe Morenz promised Mullen they would act when able. “I don’t know what we can do until the EPA says we can act,” he said

As Mullen was leaving the meeting, the Journal asked if she still planned to move the business back to Elkton. “If they say they’re going to fix it, I’ll stay,” she said.