Chesterton Tribune



Town Council okays 12 percent stormwater rate hike

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The Chesterton Town Council has approved a 12-percent stormwater rate hike.

Members voted unanimously for the increase at their meeting Monday night, one week after the Stormwater Management Board unanimously endorsed it.

The rate hike will go into effect on Aug. 9. It’s the first such hike since the stormwater rate was originally established 10 years ago, in 2006.

Under the new schedule, the base rate paid by residential users of the stormwater system will go from $4.15 to $4.65; the variable rate from $1.95 to $2.18; and the total monthly rate from $6.15 to $6.83.

Non-residential users will see their base rate similarly increased from $4.15 to $4.65; and the variable rate from $1.95 to $2.18 per equivalent residential unit (ERU), calculated to equal 3,585 square feet of impervious surface.

Over the course of an entire year, residential users will see their total annual stormwater obligation go from $73.20 to $81.96, an increase of $8.76 or around 12 percent.

Folks pay the stormwater rate on a bimonthly basis; it appears on their sanitary sewer bills, along with the refuse and recycling fee and their brush and leaf collection assessment.

Members approved the rate hike without comment.

Driving the rate hike is a consensus to make the Stormwater Utility “self-sufficient,” Clerk-Treasurer Stephanie Kuziela has told the Chesterton Tribune. Currently the Stormwater Utility is “absorbing debt,” by using the revenues from dedicated property-tax rates to pay the annual debt service of $133,575 on its 2011 stormwater bond. The Stormwater Utility, however, is in fact a “public utility” and should be using the revenues generated by its rates to pay the debt service, Kuziela said.

Abandoned Buildings

In other business, one year after the council adopted an “abandoned building” ordinance requiring the owners of vacant buildings officially determined to be unsafe to register their properties with the town, Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann reported that no buildings to date have been registered.

As Lukmann noted, the mere vacancy of a building isn’t enough to force the owner to register it. The building must also be unsafe, or the owner’s property-tax installment must be delinquent or there must be an unpaid lien on the property, and so far none of those triggers has been pulled.

But, Lukmann said, he’s asked Interim Building Commissioner Mark O’Dell to inspect several eligible vacant buildings in town to determine whether they’re in violation of the town’s unsafe building ordinance. O’Dell may have his findings in time for the council’s next meeting, on Aug. 8.

Lukmann did say that the question of tall grass and weeds is a separate issue, and though the town has in some cases mowed private property deemed to be a nuisance--and slapped a lien on the property to recoup the expense of doing so--Lukmann suggested that a better solution may be one more costly to the absentee property owner: citing the owner for every day grass and weeds are found to be in violation of ordinance and then taking the owner to court for payment of the accumulated fine.

The maximum daily fine for an ordinance violation: $2,500.

“Citation might get property owners’ attention,” Lukmann suggested.

Members voted unanimously to authorize Lukmann to pursue that strategy.


Meanwhile, members voted unanimously to adopt an “inducement resolution” authorizing the issuance of economic development bonds to the developer of the StoryPoint senior living community on Dickinson Road.

Essentially, the resolution extends the Chesterton Economic Development Corporation’s tax-exempt status to the StoryPoint developer. The developer’s lender, in turn, can treat the interest on borrowed moneys as tax-exempt, which allows the lender to make available to the developer a considerably lower interest rate.

The inducement resolution does not expose the town to any liability at all and does not affect its debt limit or bonding capacity, Lukmann told the Chesterton Tribune. He added that many commercial structures built in Chesterton in the 1970s were financed in the same way.

StoryPoint will feature 162 units and create a total of 60 jobs, 27 of them full-time and benefit-eligible, with an estimated annual payroll just under $1 million.


Posted 7/26/2016





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