Chesterton Tribune



Utility customers in town to see average 5.64 percent sewer rate hike

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The average Chesterton household will pay not quite 6 percent more for sanitary sewer service in 2016-17, after the Town Council voted unanimously at its meeting Monday night to enact a rate hike endorsed by the Utility Service Board.

Under that increase--recommended by the Utility’s contracted financial consultant, London Witte Group--the bimonthly bill of a household which uses 10,000 gallons of water would go from $81.26 to $85.85: a hike of $4.58 or 5.64 percent.

On the other hand, households which use 15,000 gallons of water would see only a nominal increase of 0.26 percent; while higher-volume households which use 22,500 gallons would actually see a decrease of 4.14 percent; and those which use 37,500 gallons would see a decrease of 8.27 percent.

Rate increases for the Utility’s large customers:

* The Town of Porter: 8.5 percent.

* The Indian Boundary Conservancy District: 8.34 percent.

* Fox Chase Farms: 2.38 percent.

* And Whispering Sands Mobile Home Park: 2.38 percent.

Ted Sommer of London Witte Group told the council that behind the hike are “two main drivers”: to a certain extent the rising cost of “medical expenses” for Utility employees; but “chiefly a capital improvement program of $2 million over the next four years.”

Service Board President Larry Brandt, for his part, said that a healthy, efficient infrastructure is key to the Utility and made note of the 1.2-million gallon storage tank recently completed as part of the federally mandated long term control plan (LTCP) to reduce combined sewer overflows into the Little Calumet River.

The Chesterton Utility spent approximately $12 million on the tank, Brandt added, a bargain compared to the $135 million which Fort Wayne is paying to implement its own LTCP; the $200 million which Hammond is paying; and the $1 billion which Indianapolis is paying.

The envisioned four-year capital improvement plan, Brandt also said, will improve the wastewater plant’s efficiency and increase its capacity, meaning there will be more capacity to sell to commercial and residential developments and adding perhaps as many as 20 years to the plant’s life expectancy.

The rate hike has one other benefit, Brandt said: it will maintain the Utility’s “financial stability,” enabling it to continue to borrow--when necessary--at low interest rates and to put aside a “reserve” in case of unexpected infrastructure failure, the latter certainly possible given the age of some parts of the town’s collection system.

Two persons remonstrated against the hike. The first, Porter Town Council Member William Lopez wanted to know why the average Chesterton household will be paying 5.64 percent more but the Town of Porter 8.5 percent more.

Michael Heater, whose property is unmetered, also objected to rate hike. “You have no idea how much water I use,” he said. “It’s unmetered. You just bill me. I need more justification, more facts.”

Sommer told both Lopez and Heater that he would be glad to sit down with them and explain the details of the increase. But, generally speaking, the calculations made by the London Witte Group were based “on a template developed long ago” by the town of Chesterton and Porter. “It may seem like a lack of intuitiveness,” he said. “But there’s a different set of flow characteristics in Porter than in Chesterton.”

Member Dane Lafata, D-3rd, who participated in the rate discussions, said that he personally “can’t argue with the numbers.”

Following the public hearing, the council voted 4-0 to approve the new rate ordinance on first reading, 4-0 to suspend the rules, then 4-0 to approve it on final reading. Member Lloyd Kittredge, R-2nd, was not in attendance.

Because of the current bimonthly water-reading schedule--Dec. 10 to Feb. 10--the rate hike “will not be shown on the bills until February,” Clerk-Treasurer Stephanie Kuziela said.

Refuse Write-offs

In other business, members voted unanimously to write off $2,303 in uncollectable refuse and recycling accounts, owed by former Chesterton property owners who’ve sold their homes or otherwise moved out of town.


Members also voted unanimously to approve a $13,215 contract with American Legal Publishing to re-codify the Town Code. Kuziela described the re-codification as “housekeeping” and said that the Town Code would be consolidated and re-ordered.




Posted 12/14/2016





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