Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Chesterton Utility intervening against water company rate hike

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By KEVIN NEVERS

Indiana-American Water Company (IAWC) is currently seeking its seventh rate hike since 2002. This one, if approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, would raise the bill of an average residential customer in Northwest Indiana by more than 17 percent.

That is, the average bimonthly bill would increase from $67.81 to $79.48 or--on a monthly basis--from $33.90 to $39.74, a spike of 17.21 percent.

A pretty hefty uptick and one which has prompted the Chesterton Utility Service Board formally to intervene in IAWC’s petition before the IURC.

At its meeting Monday night, the Service Board voted 5-0 to authorize an expenditure of $5,000 to retain the legal services of Bose McKinney & Evans in that intervention.

Chesterton is joining three other municipalities--Schererville, Gary, and West Lafayette--and “a couple of other wholesale customers” as well, Ted Sommer, a CPA with the Service Board’s contracted financial consultant, London Witte Group, told the Chesterton Tribune today.

In fact, Sommer said, the rationale for the intervention is not, strictly speaking, the size of the proposed rate hike so much as the new state law under which IAWC has filed for the hike: a law which permits IAWC to seek an increase based on “future test years,” in other words, on the company’s future projected costs.

“This is the first time anyone has done this,” Sommer said of IAWC’s petition, “and it’s a little scary. We’re doing what we can to put together findings sufficient to ensure that the precedent set is the best possible one from the perspective of the consumer.”

Sommer did say that Chesterton, Schererville, Gary, and West Lafayette are paying their respective share of the Bose McKinney & Evans’ fee based on their size. And the Chesterton Service Board’s $5,000 share is “no more than one-half of the next largest municipality’s.”

Meanwhile, the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC)--which represents Hoosier consumers in any proceeding before the IURC--has not yet weighed in on IAWC’s proposed rate hike. “We’re still in the midst of our review,” OUCC spokesman Anthony Swinger told the Tribune on Tuesday. “We’re still giving it a very close look.”

The Storage Tank

In other business, Town Engineer Mark O’Dell reported that work on the 1.2-million gallon storage tank--the key element of the Utility’s long term control plan to reduce sewage overflows into the Little Calumet River during heavy rain events--is proceeding.

General contractor Gariup Construction Company of Gary has completed the storage tank’s walls and is beginning work on an attached control building, O’Dell said. Subcontractor G.E. Marshall is working on the installation of a 24-inch force main associated with the tank, a 20-inch gravity main, and aeration drain piping.

The tank will be used to hold stormwater-diluted wastewater during rains until the treatment plant has had a chance to catch up. The wastewater will be pumped to the tank and then later bled back into the system by gravity feed.

Gariup won the contract with its low bid of $8,471,800, nearly 9 percent lower than O’Dell’s original estimate of $9.3 million for the tank and ancillary work.

Collections Activity

Meanwhile, Superintendent Terry Atherton reported that the collections crew, charged with maintaining the system’s pipes and lines, is currently televising the sewers in the Morningside subdivision and data is being collected on the service laterals for residences there.

In March the collections crew cleaned all lift station wet wells, jetted 2,364 feet of sanitary sewer, televised 1,682 feet, and completed 112 locates.

Finally, Atherton said, the system’s 36 “trouble” manholes have been inspected as part of a bimonthly program and were either jetted or vacuumed.

March in Review

In March, Chesterton used 51.54 percent of its 3,668,000 gallon per day (gpd) allotment of the wastewater treatment plant; Porter, 63.35 percent of its 851,000 gpd allotment; the Indian Boundary Conservancy District, 90.50 percent of its 81,000 gpd allotment; and the plant as a whole, 54.41 percent of its capacity.

There were no bypasses last month, with 2.42 inches of precipitation recorded at the wastewater treatment plant.

In March the Utility ran a surplus of $165,437.53 and in the year to date is running a surplus of $31,506.34.

 

Posted 4/23/2014