Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Another sewer rate hike on horizon?

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Seems like just a year ago a 14-percent sanitary sewer rate hike went into effect in the Town of Chesterton.

Actually, it was just a year ago.

Which means that the time has come for another biennial rate study.

At the Utility Service Board’s meeting Monday night, President Larry Brandt said that he does not know at this point what conclusion the upcoming rate study will reach. But he can guess. “We need to get locked and loaded for that battle when it comes,” Brandt said. “Because the cost of things is not going down. I’m expecting the study will show the need for another increase.”

By consensus the Service Board instructed Interim Superintendent Mark O’Dell to ask contracted rate consultant H.J. Umbaugh & Associates to begin that study.

In related news, the Service Board took receipt from O’Dell of the 2009 annual report.

•The Utility under-performed the total projected revenue of $3,546,000 by $123,694 or 3.48 percent.

•But it out-performed the total projected commercial sales of $2,800,000 by $169,138 or 6.04 percent. “So there was more growth in town than expected,” Brandt noted.

•The Utility under-performed the total project operating revenues of $2,480,175 by $187,071 or 7.54 percent.

•It finished the year with a deficit of $93,975, compared to a projected surplus of $2,060. Among the higher than expected line items were sludge removal, which cost $18,370 or 61.23 percent more than the projected $30,000; chemical, which cost $5,019 or 3.4 percent more than the projected $59,000; and workman’s compensation, which cost $16,622 or 66.22 percent more than the projected $10,000.

•In 2009 Chesterton used 59.50 percent of its allotment at the wastewater treatment plant; Porter, 63.66 percent; the Indian Boundary Conservancy District, 77.60 percent; and the plant as a whole, 60.48 percent of its capacity. Brandt suggested the possibility that the plant may hit 85-percent capacity well ahead of the anticipated 20-year lifetime of the recently completed expansion project.

•In an incredibly wet year—with 42.67 inches of recorded rain—a total of 3,427,336 gallons of sewage were bypassed into the Little Calumet River. “Last March”—with 4.6 inches of rain on top of snow melt—“killed us,” O’Dell noted. “God, what a bad spring,” Brandt said.

•The plant treated a total of 1,015,415,000 gallons last year, compared to 1,030,034,000 in 2008, an increase of 1.43 percent.


In other business, the Service Board voted 4-0 to approve the write-off of a total of 70 uncollectable balances totaling $3,052.52 on sanitary sewer accounts for sold properties.

Member Scot McCord was not in attendance.

Many of those are for deceased individuals, Clerk-Treasurer Gayle Polakowski said. But some are also for builders which have gone out of business.

After a lengthy discussion about the feasibility of trying to collect some of the unpaid balances, members agreed just to write them all off but to do a better job collecting in the future. In particular, they discussed the possibility of asking the Town Council to amend Town Code to allow the Building Commissioner to refuse the issuance of building permits to any builder in arrears until he’s made good on his debt.

Check to the Army Corps

Meanwhile, the Service Board voted 4-0 to dispatch a manual check in the amount of $91,667 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Utility’s 25-percent match for the earmark secured by U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st, for the Porter Ave. sanitary sewer re-line project on tap for this year.

Election of Officers

By votes of 4-0, the Service Board re-elected Brandt to the presidency and Member Jim Raffin to the vice-presidency; re-appointed Utility Clerk Donna Simmers to the secretariat; and re-appointed the firm of Harris Welsh & Lukmann to counsel.

Last Thoughts

Member John Schnadenberg took a moment at the end of the meeting to ask Simmers whether there is any likelihood of the Utility’s establishing on-line payment capacity.

Simmers said that, as one of the bond projects slated for this year, a new billing system should be up and running by the end of 2010, and that this system could, at some point, be retrofitted for on-line payments.

For his part Raffin had a shout-out for the Street Department. “With all the snow, it kind of amazes me how we just keep rolling along with very little interruption in our lives because the Street Department moves it so efficiently off the roads,” he said.

Schnadenberg, wearing his Street Commissioner’s hat, acknowledged the compliment but noted that he and his men have a lot of help from other departments’ employees, notably the Utility’s and Park Department’s. “It’s cross-training and a lot of town employees are involved in that,” he said.

“They deserve the praise,” Member Andy Michel said. “They’ve earned it, they deserve it. Thanks again everyone.”


Posted 1/19/2010




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