Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Fee hikes may be coming for Porter residents

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By PAULENE POPARAD

Both sewer rates and stormwater fees might be going up in Porter this year.

A seven-member committee will be formed as soon as possible to determine which sanitary sewer projects are needed, and how much of a rate hike it would take to pay for them.

The Town Council approved forming the committee as suggested by Porter director of engineering Matt Keiser.

In separate action Tuesday, the Porter Stormwater Management Board also authorized Keiser to present in February a revised fee schedule that could double the money collected annually to address longstanding drainage problems faster.

Owners of residential parcels currently pay a $4 per-month stormwater fee while commercial/industrial parcels are assessed multiples of that $4 equivalent residential unit based on a formula.

In August of 2008 the Porter Town Council increased sanitary sewer rates by 30 percent with another 30 percent rate hike at that time tentatively proposed for the end of 2009. The additional revenue was intended to finance future repayment of an estimated $4 million bond issue or loan for upgrades to Porter’s sewer collection system and lift stations.

The town is under an agreed order with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to modernize its antiquated sewer infrastructure. Several projects have been undertaken but the most expensive remain.

Keiser suggested four town employees and three Porter sanitary sewer customers be named to the rate-study committee, which will meet publicly and be assisted by town financial consultant Karl Cender.

Keiser said the committee needs to start meeting soon and volunteers should submit their names to him at the town hall.

Oak Hill sewer fix coming

Approved Tuesday were what Keiser described as emergency repairs to an Oak Hill Road sanitary sewer line near Wagner Road which serves approximately 25 homes, four of which have had sewage in basements. Town crews are checking the lift station twice a day.

A 4-inch sewer line that is susceptible to blockages will be replaced with an 8-inch gravity line at the proper slope. A contractor is standing by to begin the $181,100 project that will include rebuilding the road and any storm sewers over the sanitary line.

The Town Council OK’d spending $41,000 from its Major Moves roads account for the project; the Porter Redevelopment Commission earlier in the evening authorized paying the $140,100 balance. The work lies within the commission’s tax-increment financing district.

Keiser said residents affected by the sewer repairs will be kept informed of road closures before they occur.

More money, more progress

Regarding the possible stormwater-fee increase, board president Bill Cantrell said it originally was estimated that the $4 fee would raise about $250,000 a year; it generates barely half that amount. The town has a master plan to solve flooding problems but grants are hard to come by, he added.

According to Keiser, “We’re underfunded. We’re picking and choosing instead of doing.”

The Stormwater Board did take action on two smaller projects on its priority list.

Bids will be sought for extending a storm sewer in the CSX railroad ditch north of Wood Street. The water now goes nowhere allowing it to rise and infiltrate sanitary-sewer manholes. Water also ponds in the nearby Porter Ridge cul-de-sac.

Observed Cantrell, “It floods every time it rains. It’s always been a bad area. We’ve had a lot of complaints over the years.”

Keiser said the estimated $43,000 project, which could begin in March, will not directly alleviate standing water in the wooded lot at the corner of Wood Street and Broadway, but the property owner could regrade the CSX ditch and connect there.

Also approved was having Haas & Associates at a cost not to exceed $5,000 engineer a drainage solution for flooding on the west side of Waverly Road just south of the Amtrak line. The work would require boring under the railroad. The project would go north and include drainage improvements at Ackerman Drive in Hawthorne Park.

Keiser said the Park Board will be consulted and he’ll look for money to pay for the project, rated No. 11 on the drainage master plan.

The Stormwater Board also voted 3-0 to enter into a five-year contract with the Northern Indiana Regional Planning Commission to provide public education/outreach and public participation/involvement related to compliance with the federal MS4 stormwater mandates.

The cost for 2010 and 2011 is $3,743 annually based on Porter’s 4,972 population. Contract cost for 2010-14 will be adjusted following certification of the 2010 census.

Keiser reported that drainage problems in the Dunes Forest Trail area are being evaluated with sewer lines to be videoed while water is being pumped as needed from a lift station to a nearby manhole.

In 2010 Stormwater Board reorganization, Cantrell was re-elected president, Jon Granat vice-president and Daniel Colbert treasurer.

 

 

Posted 1/27/2010

 

 

 

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