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.