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
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
“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.”
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.