Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

April 15, 2014

Beach conditions worry EWA

Operator given notice to clean up violations

Cathy Griffith
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — Effingham Water Authority is putting the operator of Lake Sara beach on notice after health code violations have kept the beach closed for the past couple of years.

Board members this week said they are dissatisfied with the lack of progress to improve the beach that has been plagued by geese.

"I feel like we've let him slide for too long. We have responsibility to citizens of Effingham," said board member Rob Brown.

Brown said Danny Hankins, who leases the property, has failed to obtain a license to operate the beach, leaving it closed for the past couple of years because of health code violations. He said he also has been behind on lease payments.

With no swimming allowed off of boats on the lake, Brown noted it is the only area visitors can swim. He suggested the water authority take over operation of the property, placing it in public domain. He said Effingham Water Authority would be better able to improve the beach with access to public grants, as well as maintain it at a cheaper cost.

Attorney Bruce Burkey, who represents Hankins, told board members Monday Hankins would like to coordinate with the board ideas for improving the beach.

"We're receptive to ideas," he said. "Think it would be more successful if we could coordinate some entrepreneurship."

Board member Jim Boos agrees something needs to be done.

"I think we've been remiss in letting Danny slide," he said.

The Marina@Lake Sara owner Brian Larson agreed the beach would be better served under a public entity but recommended board members have a plan that involved everyone, including other lease holders along the lake, before making such a move.

"Before you make a giant change, get stakeholders involved, so you have a coordinated effort going forward," he said.

Larson added he would hope to see some negotiation between the board and Hankins in an effort to put the property under operation of the water authority, rather than Hankins lose it outright.

According to the lease agreement, the beach must open by Memorial Day.

"I think we all have a vision of what we would like it to be, but step one is getting it back in working order by time it opens," said Board Chairman Chris Kabbes

The board agreed to send a notice to Hankins that he must be in compliance of Illinois Department of Public Health requirements in time to open the beach at the end of the month.