Chesterton Tribune



Chesterton challenges Valpo’s sewer 'territory' before IURC

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The Town of Chesterton is formally challenging the Valparaiso City Council’s declaration, by regulatory ordinance, of a sanitary sewer “territory” which extends 10 miles outside of the city’s corporate limits and claims the exclusive right to provide sanitary service to all areas in that territory not currently located inside an incorporated municipality.

The ordinance--adopted on Oct. 15--is part of the Valparaiso City Utilities’ proposed acquisition of the Damon Run Conservancy District’s sanitary sewer infrastructure. Damon Run provides sanitary and water service to approximately 455 homes in the Eagle Ridge and Timberland subdivisions in unincorporated Liberty Township, north of U.S. Highway 6, as well as to Porter Regional Hospital, Liberty Intermediate School, and Sunset Hill Farm County Park.

Chesterton, in a pair of causes filed on Tuesday before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), contends that Valparaiso’s 10-mile service territory encroaches on a four-mile territory which the Town Council, again by regulatory ordinance, previously declared five years ago, in 2014.

In the first cause, Chesterton is asking the IURC to approve the 2014 ordinance, grant the town the exclusive right to provide sanitary sewer service within the four-mile territory, and then protect that right by denying “the City of Valparaiso’s attempted encroachment.”

As the claim notes, portions of Valparaiso’s 10-mile service territory “are immediately adjacent to the town, subject to the town’s master sewer plan, contain sewer utility lines installed by the town, and are currently being provided with sewer utility services by the town.”

The claim is referring, among other things, to the infrastructure installed by the Chesterton Utility in 2015 to provide sanitary sewer service to Fox Chase Farms and the Whispering Sands Mobile Home Park--located in unincorporated Liberty Township and within the town’s four-mile territory--both of whose sanitary systems were either failing at the time or at capacity.

The claim also notes that Indiana Code “does not require that a petition be filed with the (IURC) for approval of a regulatory ordinance within a set time period after adoption.”

In the second cause, Chesterton is asking the IURC for permission to intervene in the City of Valparaiso’s own cause, filed on Oct. 15, in which the city seeks the IURC’s approval of its new 10-mile service territory.

“Chesterton has a substantial interest in this legal proceeding because the City of Valparaiso proposes to establish an exclusive sewer service territory covering areas that overlap areas to which Chesterton may lawfully provide sewer service,” Chesterton’s claim states. “The outcome of this legal proceeding will have a direct and material impact on Chesterton’s ability to render sewer service outside of the town’s municipal corporate limits and in areas for which it has master-planned sewer service.”

Chesterton also filed a pair of ancillary motions, both asking the IURC to consolidate its two causes with Valparaiso’s into a single case. “Administrative economy would be best served by consolidating the two causes,” one of the motions states. “Given the common relief requested, it is likely that Valparaiso and other interested parties will intervene in (Chesterton’s cause) and present similar--if not identical--evidence and arguments for the commission’s consideration. Consolidation will therefore prevent the commission from having to consider the same evidence and legal arguments separately in each of the respective causes.”

At Monday’s Chesterton Town Council meeting, Member Jim Ton, R-1st, blasted VCU’s move on Damon Run, calling it “seriously flawed” and “a clear attempt by VCU and the city to enlarge its ‘sphere of influence’ northward regardless of the locals residents’ interests or desires.”

“Transparency is and has been absent in this rush to make a ‘deal,’” Ton added. “Sanitary service must be provided by the best provider that is identified by the facts. We ask that the IURC identify those facts and do so promptly.”

The next day the town filed its two causes with the IURC.



Posted 10/31/2019




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