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The Lake Hills Motel, Inc. v. Board of Trustees of Benton County Sewer District #1

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division

March 14, 2018

THE LAKE HILLS MOTEL, INC., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE BENTON COUNTY SEWER DISTRICT #1, et al., Defendant.

          ORDER

          NANETTE K. LAUGHREY JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendants Board of Trustees of the Benton County Sewer District #1, Harold James, and Rodney Meyer's Motion to Dismiss, Doc. 7. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

         I. Background [1]

         Plaintiffs in this case are Josephine Baker, as trustee of the Josephine L. Baker Revocable Trust (“the Trust”), and The Lake Hills Motel, Inc. (“the Motel”), of which Baker is the principal shareholder. Defendants are the Board of Trustees of the Benton County Sewer District #1, three former trustees, Harold James, Ted Seek, and Gerald Duvall, and the former treasurer, Rodney Meyer. Mark Geisinger and Construction Services and Management, LLC, a contractor that disconnected Plaintiffs' sewer line in October 2012, are also defendants.

         The Motel is located in Benton County, Missouri, on property owned by the Trust. In November, 1994, the Benton County Sewer District (“the District”) was formed as a political subdivision pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 204.250 and 204.270. Plaintiffs allege that prior to the formation of the Benton County Sewer District the Motel utilized its own permitted lagoon for disposal of waste water on the property. After the District was formed, however, it represented to Plaintiffs that they were required to utilize its sewer services.

         In April 1998, the Board of Trustees of the District determined sewer rates and levied the charges against property owners within the District's borders. The District utilized a flat rate, rather than basing charges off of actual usage. Over time, the rates that the District charged to Plaintiffs sharply increased. Between 2007 and 2013, the District increased rates more than 300%. Plaintiffs objected to the increase, and were told that if they installed a water meter their monthly sewer charges could be assessed on actual usage. Accordingly, Plaintiffs installed a water meter in April 2011, at a cost of $2, 256.00.

         Following installation of the meter, the District refused to read it or to base Plaintiffs' sewage charges on the meter data. In response, Plaintiffs refused to pay the increased sewer charges. On April 13, 2011, the District filed a lien on Plaintiffs' property with the Benton County Recorder's Office, without prior notice, based on its assessment of sewer charges. On October 15, 2012, the District posted a “service stop notice” on the Motel's front door, claiming $10, 592.75 in arrearages. The notice stated that unless the arrearage was paid in full, Plaintiffs' sewer service would be disconnected on October 18, 2012. On October 18, 2012, the District disconnected Plaintiffs' sewer line. On November 6, 2012, the District released the previous lien that was filed on Plaintiffs' property, and filed a new lien in the amount of $12, 017.46. The District reconnected the sewer in November 2013, and the Motel now pays approximately $60 per month for sewer charges.

         Plaintiffs bring this suit alleging in their Complaint, Doc. 1:

• Count I: Plaintiffs' claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for unlawful taking, substantive due process, the termination of sewer services, and filing of liens without due process of law, and trespass
• Count II: Plaintiffs' claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for sewer charges assessed without due process of law
• Count III: Defendants' violation of due process of law under Article X, Section 22 of the Missouri Constitution with respect to the unconstitutional tax imposed by defendants
• Count IV: Plaintiffs' claim under Chapter 536 RSMO, (The Missouri Administrative Procedures Act)
• Count V: Slander of title.
• Count VI: Tortious interference with business ...

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