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Attempt to challenge sale of school is denied

An attempt to challenge the sheriff’s sale of an Amish school in Sugar Grove Township was denied as a result of a Wednesday hearing.

The property is located on Rounds Hill Road and was owned, per county assessment records, by the Amish Church of Sugar Grove.

But the Sugar Grove Area Sewer Authority (SUGASA), according to its solicitor Andrea Stapleford, took the property to sheriff sale over unpaid sewer bills.

This isn’t the first time members of the Amish community have sparred in court with SUGASA.

State law requires people with access to a sewer system to connect and pay the bill. Religious beliefs tied to the use of electricity have resulted in members of the Amish community declining to connect to the system.

The property at the heart of Wednesday’s hearing — a motion for reconsideration of a denied injunction — has been owned by SUGASA since January in the wake of the sheriff’s sale.

Bernard J. Hessley filed the motion in support of his client, the Rounds Hill Road School Board.

Hessley argued that the group wasn’t properly served notice of the sale but President Judge Maureen Skerda noted that the group could have moved to set aside the sale or appeal the sale, steps that were not taken.

He argued that the school board was in “rightful possession” at the time of the sheriff’s sale.

Skerda noted that the time to challenge the sale has passed.

“That ship has sailed,” she said. “I can’t re-litigate that with them.”

Stapleford pointed out that the prior owner was the Old Amish Church of Sugar Grove, an entity that Hessley claimed doesn’t exist.

Stapleford said the school board has a right to the contents of the school and has “made it clear since February” that arrangements can be made for the Amish to retrieve those.

Skerda denied Hessley’s motion for reconsideration, emphasizing that there was a time to challenge or appeal the sale.

“That didn’t happen,” she said.

She also said that she agreed that the contents of the building belong to the Amish and said that the attorneys should be able to work out an agreement to address that issue.

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