The Burns Harbor Town Council is considering charging residents a new user
fee to cover the cost of 2013 fire hydrant maintenance.
A public hearing will be scheduled on the proposed budget including the
$4.12 per-month hydrant fee.
Members said if Burns Harbor residents want to benefit from the planned
advanced-life-support ambulance service to be operated by the town Fire
Department, start-up money has to be found somewhere when faced with an
already tight budget.
Council members have agreed to give the new ALS service, tentatively set to
begin in November, a one-year trial period in hopes after that it can become
At a budget workshop Wednesday, member Jeff Freeze said state tax officials
are tying government’s hands except for implementing user fees. “Eventually,
all towns will resort to that.”
Chesterton and Porter for some time have passed along certain costs to
Chesterton charges the typical residential sewer customer $29.86 every two
months to help fund trash collection, and $12.20 every two months to support
the federally mandated MS4 stormwater protection program. Hydrant
maintenance of $8.24 every two months is passed on to Chesterton customers
on their Indiana American Water Co. billing.
Joe Loughmiller of IAWC said while the latter cost is often thought of as a
rental fee for use of the water company’s hydrants, the fee actually helps
recover a portion of the utility’s costs to provide additional capacity,
treatment and other expenses to make sure the system responds when hydrants
Porter briefly passed on its cost for hydrant maintenance to residents but
the fee later was repealed.
Porter sewer customers do pay $24 every two months to help fund town trash
collection and the typical residential customer pays $8 every two months for
Also at the Burns Harbor budget workshop, the Town Council with member Greg
Miller absent agreed to consider a $1,500 annual raise for each full-time
police officer and $1,000 for other full-time town employees. Currently a
deputy marshal and a General Maintenance laborer both make the same $20.91
per hour, Perrine said, and police working in other jurisdictions are paid
more than Burns Harbor officers.
He also stated that police require more training, have more liability
exposure and more interaction with the public. Freeze said all town
employees keep more of their wages by making only a nominal contribution
toward their town-provided health insurance.
Clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan received no raise in 2012 but the council is
proposing one for 2013. Jordan works without the assistance of any deputies
in her office.
The council hasn’t taken a pay hike in several years and each member makes
$4,000 annually. Councilman Gene Weibl said if paying a user fee is being
requested of residents, he can’t support council raises.
Perrine reminded that prior to the Bethlehem Steel bankrupty that rocked the
town financially in 2001, residents paid three times their current Burns
Harbor tax rate of $0.3192 cents per each $100 of assessed valuation. “At
our current tax level, this is a steal for the people who live in this
The draft 2013 budget has to be submitted by Sept. 1 to the Porter County
Council for non-binding review; the Town Council will make any final
adjustments and conduct a public hearing Sept. 19 on the rescheduled date of
its next meeting.