Avon Lake Board of Municipal Utilities wins legal complaint against Kopf Construction Corporation

Kopf ordered to pay trunk sanitary sewer fees

May 12, 2022

Avon Lake, Ohio — The Avon Lake Board of Municipal Utilities (the Board) has won its 2-year legal battle against Kopf Construction Corporation (Kopf) for non-payment of its delinquent trunk sanitary sewer and inspection fees totaling $379,600.00 for construction of numerous units within the Aqua Marine Apartment complex in Avon Lake.  Additionally, Kopf owes $239,058.00 for new units constructed since the legal battle began, bringing the total owed to Avon Lake Regional Water to $618,658.00, plus interest charges.

The collection of fees is an essential function of the Board of Municipal Utilities, and the court has affirmed this power and accompanying duty. It would be impossible for Avon Lake Regional Water to maintain the state’s lowest water rates if we were not diligent in the collection of fees, and intentional delinquency, as has occurred in this case, is an unreasonable burden for those users who are compliant,” said John Dzwonczyk, Chairman of the Board.

For well over two years now, the Board sought Kopf’s payment without having to go to court. However, Kopf’s refusal to pay gave the Board no alternative. Collection of the sewer connection fee was expressly vested in the Board per a 1984 municipal ordinance. The ordinance also specifically authorized the Board to distinguish between all Avon Lake properties that were either improved or unimproved—the fee to be charged only upon the unimproved parcels. The 53-arce site of the former Aqua Marine Resort featured an 18-hole golf course. The Board determined that the acreage of the old course itself was unimproved so that Kopf’s development of the links is subject to the connection fee. Kopf disagreed, essentially arrogating to itself the determination of fees from the Board.

On May 3, 2022, Judge John Miraldi of the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas ruled in favor of the Board and ordered Kopf to pay $379,600.00, plus interest and court costs, in past-due trunk sanitary sewer fees.  Because additional buildings have been constructed on the golf course grounds since the filing of the lawsuit, Judge Miraldi further ordered that Kopf is responsible for those new—and future– connection fees, as well.

In addition to requiring Kopf’s payment of the delinquent fees, the ruling affirms:

  • The Board has the sole authority to determine what is unimproved land for purposes of collecting trunk sanitary sewer fees; and
  • Avon Lake Regional Water’s authority to charge fair and equitable fees encompasses the trunk sanitary sewer fee.

This is a definitive ruling that rejects all of Kopf’s claimed reasons for non-payment. Just as other developers and users of the system have paid their fair share to enjoy the benefit of ALRW’s safe, efficient, and cost-effective water and sewer infrastructure, Kopf, too, must pay its fair share.