Chesterton Tribune

Sanitary sewer rate hike to boost Utility revenues in 2009

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By KEVIN NEVERS

With the 14-percent sanitary sewer rate hike approved earlier this month by the Chesterton Town Council, the Utility is projecting “commercial sales” in 2009—that is, the revenues from that rate—to total $2,800,000, an increase of $460,390 or 20 percent over the 2008 projected commercial sales of $2,339,610.

According to the 2009 budget which Superintendent Steve Yagelski submitted to the Utility Service Board at its meeting Monday night, that projected 20 percent bump in commercial sales will allow the Utility to double the amounts put into two key funds: the Capital Improvement Fund (CIF) and the Collection Maintenance and Improvement Fund (CMIF), used to defray the expense of big-ticket projects. CIF should increase from a projected $72,000 this year to $144,000 next, CMIF from $138,000 to $270,000.

The Service Board justified the 14-percent rate hike on the grounds that current revenues were insufficient to fund major projects.

More details from the 2009 budget:

•Total revenues, including commercial sales, tap-on fees, and other sources: $3,546,000, compared to projected total revenues of $3,435,632 in 2008.

•Total capital improvements and debt service (CIDS) : $1,065,825, compared to projected total CIDS of $795,422 in 2008.

•Total revenues for operating: $2,480,152, compared to total projected revenues for operating of $2,640,210 in 2008.

•Total operation and maintenance (OM) expenses: $2,478,115, compared to total projected OM of $2,469,520 in 2008.

•Projected surplus: $2,060.

The Service Board voted 5-0 to approve the 2009 budget.

NIPSCO on the Surge

In other business, Superintendent Steve Yagelski told members that a NIPSCO power quality engineer has reached two conclusions about the surge which fried much of the wastewater treatment plant’s equipment in October.

First, that the plant may have received the surge due to the plant’s proximity to the pole struck by a motorist on Woodlawn Ave. just west of Eighth Street.

Second, that “the Utility appears to have all the appropriate protective measures in place with the panel surge protectors we have and no further surge protection measures should be required.”

Members, who had hoped that NIPSCO might have suggestions about avoiding a surge in the future, found that report not entirely satisfying.

The Utility has spent at least $30,000 repairing and replacing equipment damaged by the surge.

A Petition

Meanwhile, the Service Board had some bad news for planning consultant Chris Lambert, who on behalf of property owner Justin Brooks, asked the Service Board to provide to Porter County zoning officials a letter of allocation indicating that sufficient capacity exists at the wastewater treatment plant to serve a small commercial building which Brooks wants to develop along C.R. 100E immediately north of the Duneland School Corporation bus barn.

The bad news: there are no sanitary sewers anywhere near the proposed project site. Yagelski told Lambert that the nearest connection point is in Coffee Creek Center across Ind. 49, that the Duneland School Corporation (DSC) has already investigated the feasibility of boring beneath Ind. 49, and that the DSC concluded the cost to be prohibitively expensive.

Two Expenditures

By votes of 5-0 the Service Board also approved two expenditures, the first in the amount of $12,100 for “transducer blanket-level readers” for each of the three final clarifiers. Yagelski told members that this monitoring equipment would cut labor costs significantly.

The second expenditure, in the amount of $5,960, was for a new control panel on the Tanglewood II lift station, which had to be retrofitted after being swamped in the September flooding.

Write-Offs,

Unclaimed Deposits

In addition, the Service Board voted 5-0 to write-off a total of $17.39 in uncollectable accounts and to retain a total of $843.95 in unclaimed customer guarantee deposits, the largest of the latter one in the amount of $225.52 dating to 2001.

November in Review

In November Chesterton used 52.8 percent of its 3,794,000 gallons per day (gpd) allotment at the wastewater treatment plant; Porter, 54.26 percent of its 767,000 gpd allotment; the Indian Boundary Conservancy District, 68.99 percent of its 81,000 gpd allotment; and the plant as a whole, 54.15 percent of its capacity. No bypasses were recorded last month, with only 1.71 inches of rain, the smallest amount of precipitation in any month so far this year. In November the Utility ran a surplus of $169,258 and in the year-to-date is running a surplus of $101,891.

Next Year

Brandt took a moment at the end of the meeting to express the hope that 2009 proves a better year than 2008. “It was a tough year,” he said, “between floods and disasters. I’m not sure we’ve ever had so bad a year.” In addition to the failure of the force main beneath Porter Ave. and the 12 inches of rain in September, there was also a “surge” in the cost of operating the wastewater treatment plant. “We’re faced with significant challenges in the next few years. We need to continue to maintain the integrity of the system but also stay in line with our strategic plan.”

For their part Yagelski and Town Engineer Mark O’Dell asked the Service Board to consider scheduling a special meeting early in the New Year specifically to discuss the prioritization of projects. “We’ve got 46 issues in the collection system alone,” O’Dell said. Brandt thought such a meeting would be a good idea. “We need to address issues of funding and priorities very soon,” he said.

Members Andy Michel, Scot McCord, and Jim Raffin all wished residents a merry Christmas and safe holidays, while Michel, like Brandt, indicated that he would be pleased “with fewer catastrophes next year.”

 

Posted 12/16/2008