Utility did not approach Fox Chase Farms with an offer of extending sewer
service. On the contrary, Fox Chase Farms approached the Utility.
That was Utility
Service Board President Larry Brandt’s response at a public hearing on
Monday, when a Damon Run Conservancy homeowner expressed her dismay that the
Fox Chase subdivision looks to be getting new sanitary sewer service not
from Damon Run’s system but from Chesterton’s.
The purpose of the
public hearing was to take comment on the project’s preliminary engineering
report (PER), a prerequisite of securing a loan from the State Revolving
Fund (SRF). Members subsequently voted 5-0 to endorse the PER, which will
now go to the Town Council for approval before being submitted to the
Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the SRF.
John Sturgill of
McMahon Associates Inc., the PER’s contracted engineer, opened the
proceeding with an overview of the project, beginning with the need for it.
Fox Chase Farm’s septic mound system, serving 88 homes, is in failure.
Whispering Sands’ package treatment plant, serving 224 units, is at the end
of its useful life and the management, Sturgill said, “has no interest in
remaining in the wastewater business.”
alternatives were explored by Fox Chase Farms, including doing nothing and
replacing the current system with a gravity sewer, Sturgill said. The option
selected: replacing the current system with a low-pressure sewer and then
“regionalizing” that sewer, that is, connecting it to the Chesterton
Utility’s sanitary system. Whispering Sands at that point sought to
“piggy-back” on the project.
The advantages of
regionalization, Sturgill said: it “abates two existing discharges,
consolidates service into a municipal setting, has an economy of scale in
treatment costs, with the funding capability of the town and long-term
The basic specs of
the project would be the installation of grinder pumps at each home at Fox
Chase Farms, forcing wastewater to a new lift station in the subdivision
which would pump it north along Meridian Road to C.R. 900N and then east to
the recently completed lift station built as part of the Ind. 49 corridor
cost of the project: $2.65 million. Of that the SRF would finance $1.9
million through a 20-year zero-intereest loan. The SRF would also make a
$750,000 grant. The $1.9 million would be repaid through user rates and
fees, with no debt at all incurred by the Town of Chesterton, Sturgill said.
anticipating a May 2015 start date and a November 2015 completion date.
Township residents spoke at the public hearing.
The first was Ed
Gutt, representing the Woodville Foundation, who had several specific
questions he wanted answered. Gutt first wanted to know how much Fox Chase
Farms homeowners will pay for sewer service. He also wanted to know exactly
how the Chesterton Utility plans to assess them, given the fact that they’re
all on well water.
Gutt expressed as
well his displeasure with the ordinance enacted this past summer by the Town
Council, which reserves the Utility’s right to provide sanitary sewer
service to property owners four miles outside the town’s corporate limits.
“I’m bothered by the ordinance,” Gutt said. “Other providers can’t expand.
What about hook-up fees? We can’t use Damon Run but we must use the Town of
“How can the town
tell unincorporated areas what they can or can’t do?” Gutt asked. “We have
some different feelings, motives, from what a city person, a town person,
Brandt began by
saying that every Fox Chase Farms homeowner is expected right now to pay a
monthly rate of $137, up from the current monthly rate of $95. Brandt
acknowledged that those homeowners can’t be metered because they’re on
wells. So each will pay the same rate, regardless of actual usage.
will pay the Utility $4,700 per month, Brandt added.
As to the four-mile
ordinance, Brandt said that the whole point of it is to protect the town’s
multi-million investment in the Ind. 49 utility corridor, not to
reduce Liberty Township residents’ options. “Indiana law allows communities
to put a ‘halo’ around their towns to protect wastewater services, up to
“If we’re going to
invest a couple of million bucks, we ought to be able to protect that
investment,” Brandt said. “But we don’t tell unincorporated folks what to
Kris Borsodi, a
Damon Run homeowner, spoke next. Her main point: there’s already a system in
place and it’s called Damon Run. Why would the State of Indiana allow an
expenditure of $1.9 million to enable Fox Chase Farms to go all the way to
the Chesterton Utility for service?
This is a
“customer-driven process,” Brandt replied. Just as Porter Regional Hospital
chose Damon Run as its sewer provider, Fox Chase Farms has chosen the
Chesterton Utility. “Fox Chase Farms came to us. They looked at Damon Run.
They looked at South Haven. And they looked at a third provider. They as
customers said ‘We’d rather connect to you guys.’ And then Whispering Sands
said the same.”
Brandt added that
the $750,000 grant and the zero-interest loan are pretty good indicators
that the State of Indiana is in favor of the project. “You can tell the
state is really in our corner,” he said.
beautiful,” Borsodi said in response. “And here we at Damon Run are
why Fox Chase Farms came to us,” Member John Schnadenberg said.
“So the state is
coming up with the money to bypass a system that I’m forced to pay into at
very high prices,” Borsodi said. “Is that it in a nutshell?”
“Yes,” Brandt said.
“So I have to take
my complaint to the state,” Borsodi concluded.
Members then voted
unanimously to endorse the PER and forward it to the Town Council.