Chesterton Tribune



Library questions $3,972 sewer bill from Town of Porter utility

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Westchester Public Library was hit with a $3,972 bill from the Town of Porter for under-billed sewer charges at Hageman Library in Porter.

In a Sept. 12 letter to the library, town attorney Greg Sobkowski said Porter recently discovered Hageman was under-billed for sewer charges from May 29, 2009 through the billing dated July 15, 2013.

In a follow-up letter to Sobkowski, WPL attorney Terry Hiestand said he’s not certain how it’s the library’s responsibility that it was improperly billed by the town in the past.

Last night Hiestand told the Library Board that members can discuss their options at a closed executive session because the situation might require WPL to file a lawsuit challenging the validity of the retroactive billing and the fairness of the town’s sewer ordinance itself.

The Library Board took no action and indicated it may call an executive session pending the Porter Town Council’s intention to address under-billed residential sewer customers at its Oct. 22 meeting.

Tuesday the Town Council said collection of the under-billed balances temporarily was on hold but the charges can’t be waived; payment would be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

Library Board president Nick Tilden said if there’s no ramifications for not paying, WPL can wait.

The problems came to light last month when Porter residents questioned the Town Council about approximately $1,000 bills each received because they have 1-inch water meters, which are billed at a higher rate, instead of what the ordinance refers to as standard 3/4 and 5/8-inch residential meters.

Porter bills for sewer usage based on water consumption and meter size. Resident Charles Loveless told the council he had no control over what size meter Indiana American Water installed at his home.

Hiestand said Hageman Library has a 1 1/2-inch meter but any Porter customer who uses 1,000 gallons of water should be billed the same rate because the cost of treating 1,000 gallons of effluent is the same no matter what size pipe the water originally came to the ratepayer in.

Asked Hiestand, “Why would they make a bonus off our back because of the size of our water line?”

It would be unusual if WPL had to sue Porter to clear up the disagreement because it’s a third governmental unit --- Chesterton --- that actually provides sewage treatment under contract with Porter.

WPL library director Phil Baugher assured that Hageman Library will remain open during the dispute.




Posted 10/11/2013