Westchester Public Library will pay a retroactive $3,972 sewer bill from the
Town of Porter sewage utility for Hageman Library there, but Library Board
members who made that decision aren’t happy about it.
Far from it. During a nearly 25-minute discussion Thursday, the Library
Board and its attorney Terry Hiestand debated whether to request a waiver,
file litigation challenging the billing, not pay it and ask for further
clarification, or pay it but ask justification why the bill ---received in
September yet dating back to May 29, 2009 --- is owed in the first place.
Another alternative would have been not to do anything and let Porter make
the next move.
A problem arose when the sewer utility began back-billing some residential
and commercial customers based on the correct size of their water meters.
The monthly sewage base rate depends on meter size.
Some residential Porter customers were hit with approximately $1,300
back-billings because their 1-inch meters were not the standard 5/8 or
3/4-inch meter considered to be residential service. After those customers
complained, the Porter Town Council on Tuesday rolled the 1-inch meters into
the residential classification and forgave their back-billing charges.
Hageman Library’s water meter is 1 1/2 inches, which now is charged a base
rate of $82 per-month more than a 1-inch line. The Town Council’s rate-fix
was for residential customers only.
Library director Phil Baugher recommended paying the sewer bill, in part
because WPL has had a great relationship with the Town of Porter. But
Baugher also suggested a way to avoid higher billings in the future.
He plans to contact Indiana American Water Co. to have Hageman’s water meter
reduced to a 1-inch size. Baugher said some of the 1975 building’s utilities
were oversized but never reduced when the original building plans were
Library Board president Nick Tilden said some homes in Porter have five
bathrooms yet are paying the much-lower residential rate than Hageman.
An overriding factor in the Library Board opting not to challenge the matter
was cost of litigation. “(The bill’s) $4,000 but if we spend $10,000 I doubt
many people will be pleased with it,” said member Drew Rhed. “I don’t think
we should be creating any ill will.”
Hiestand said it’s still not clear whether Porter legally can charge
different base rates because of water-meter size, despite an explanation
provided by town attorney Gregg Sobkowski.
Said Tilden, “I don’t think we’ll get a reason that’s acceptable because
there is none.”
Also Thursday, the board agreed to use commercial ceiling tile for a
renovation of the WPL-operated Westchester Township History Museum exhibit
space in the historic Brown Mansion, which is leased to WPL by the Duneland
Baugher said due to a mix-up, residential ceiling tiles were installed and
while it looks very nice, the project architect has a concern about the
tile’s thinness. Noted board member Abbe Trent, “The School Board is so
generous in letting us use the building, we should do renovation work that’s
Changing to commercial tile will mean a construction delay and cost about
$4,000 on top of the nearly $56,000 being spent so far.
Regarding renewal of WPL’s employee heath-insurance plan, Baugher said the
plan administrator is checking the marketplace for alternatives. The
previous plan isn’t being offered, said Baugher, and the substitite offered
by the carrier is “a huge step down for our employees” although a savings
for the library.
A technology report showed WPL is dropping the online Chilton’s database and
the Freegal downloadable music service based on low patron usage for both. A
music/movie downloadable service could be added next year. The online Zinio
magazine service has been renewed although a few less-used titles have been
dropped by WPL or the publishers.
Continuing its practice of visiting WPL-owned facilities, the Library Board
meets at 7 p.m. Dec. 19 at the History Museum, Jan. 9 at the Library Service
Center, and Feb. 13 at Hageman.