By TOM GIAMBRONI
By the time you read this, the owners of the Elkton Auto Corral will have followed through on their threat to move most of their operations back to Elkton because of a sewer line dispute with the village.
Porta-potties outside the Elkton Auto Corral greet drivers traveling past the Lisbon car dealership. (Salem News photo by Tom Giambroni)
Jay and Susan Mullen spent Thursday moving vehicles from the used car dealership in Lisbon back to the company's original location in Elkton. Mr. Mullen intends to work out of the Elkton location, as does his stepdaughter and the person who does the detail work on vehicles.
Mr. Mullen said he is moving there, in part, to avoid paying the 1.5 percent village income tax in protest, and his stepdaughter felt the same way. His wife will remain at the Lisbon location two to three days per week to keep the service area open for customers, but all sales will be negotiated and transacted by him at the Elkton location, which is unincorporated.
"Where the car is sold is where the tax is paid ... I'm not getting any help, so why should I continue to pay taxes," Mr. Mullen said, adding the move is "stressful, it's confusing and it will likely cost me (business)."
"I feel I have asked nicely, but I feel I should have more than a free tap from the village. I didn't cause this problem," he said. The village has offered to waive the minimum $600 tap-in fee.
The Mullens also moved three porta-potties to the Lisbon location - one for staff and two for customers. They are located at the front of the property facing East Lincoln Way, also as a protest, along with a sign asking passing motorists to honk in support.
A porta-potty will also be located at the Elkton location. When the Mullens were there before, they used the bathroom in their home, which is located immediately adjacent.
The porta-potties will cost $80 each per month, but Mr. Mullen said they have no choice because the state requires they have public restrooms for customers. Until now, customers were told to use the restrooms at the Steel Trolley Diner located across the street
These are the latest developments in the public dispute over the village's decision to cut off sewer service to the dealership in 2012 after a contractor smelled a strong odor of gasoline while installing a storm sewer.
The former Quinn Chevrolet dealership was closed at the time, and six weeks later the Mullens purchased the property at auction. The Mullens did not discover until 2013, when the drain in the service area and the bathrooms began to back up, that the lateral line connecting the building to the main municipal sewer line had been severed.
The Mullens want the village to reconnect them for free but were told that is the property owner's responsibility. The village also requires that a new lateral line be installed because of possible contamination they believe exists.
BP is in the process of cleaning up underground contamination that exists at the front of the dealership property, where a gas station was once located. At the village's request, the Mullens asked BP to perform some contamination testing in the area of the lateral line, which is behind the dealership building.
The test results released two weeks ago came back negative for any detectable contamination, but Mr. Mullen said they have not heard anything from the village since, which is why they decided to begin a partial relocation of their business.
At one time, Mrs. Mullen said they offered to pay $3,000 toward the reconnection if the village would do the work. The offer is no longer on the table, but she said they later told Mayor Dan Bing they would pay the entire reconnection costs if the village closed the alley between the dealership building and the rear car lot. The lateral line cuts through a portion of the alley that separates the dealership building and the rear car lot. If they alley were closed it would become the Mullens' property.
"We'll see what happens," he said.
Mayor Bing was unaware porta-potties had been moved to the front of the property. "Did they?" he asked, chuckling. "They're entitled to do what they want to do. I have no hard feeling towards them. I just wish this had been taken care of months ago."
Bing said he has been advised by village Solicitor Virginia Barborak to let her handle the situation while she tries to contact BP to ask the company if it would install a new lateral line.
While Bing personally believes the village should help the Mullens, he said the decision is really up to the Water and Sewer Department, which is a quasi-independent village board comprised of three members elected by voters.