By KEVIN NEVERS
The Chesterton Utility has a to-do list of projects whose estimated cost
totals $3.67 million. Meanwhile, it needs to scrape up at least $450,000 more
to defray the unexpected expense of the emergency force main replacement on
Porter Ave., completed on Friday.
So where will the Utility find the funds to begin work on those projects,
some of them long-postponed and critical, like the Downtown replacement and
At the Utility Service Board’s meeting Monday night, President Larry Brandt
had this answer to that question. “We need another source of revenue,” he
said. “We need more customers.”
Brandt observed that in June Chesterton used only 47.40 percent of its
allotted capacity at the wastewater treatment plant and only 55.47 percent in
May, and that since 2008 began Chesterton’s usage has been generally
declining. “If we’re operating at 50 to 60 percent of capacity,” he said, “we
need more customers.”
Along that line of reasoning, Brandt expressed his gratitude to
Superintendent Steve Yagelski for his response, at Thursday’s public hearing
before the Advisory Plan Commission on the Coffee Creek Crossing planned unit
development, to remonstrators who claimed that the wastewater treatment plant
is already operating at full capacity. It isn’t, Yagelski told them, not by a
long shot. Yagelski has a seat on the Advisory Plan Commission.
“The plant was expanded to handle growth for the next 20 years,” Brandt noted
on Monday. “It can handle more residents and more businesses.”
Member John Schnadenberg ventured that the remonstrators may be confusing the
issue of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) with the issue of capacity. CSOs
occur during heavy rains when the flow from unseparated sanitary and
stormwater sewers overwhelms the plant. But the plant as a whole right
now—treating wastewater from Chesterton, Porter, and the Indian Boundary
Conservancy District—is operating at well below capacity: 50.39 percent in
June, 57.24 percent in May, 64.65 percent in April, for example.
Brandt did not mention on Monday the proposed 14-percent rate hike on which
the Town Council will hold a pubic hearing at its Aug. 11 meeting. Under the
proposed increase the average residential household currently paying $66
every two months would pay $75.25, a hike of $9.25 or about $4.63 per month.
The Service Board split 3-2 in endorsing a single-phase hike. Schnadenberg
and Member Jim Raffin prefer to see the increase enacted in two phases: 7
percent in 2009 and another 7 percent in 2010.
A 14-percent hike would follow a 34-increase which took effect in 2007. That
34-percent increase, in turn, followed a two-phase hike, beginning with a 5.8
percent increase in 2005 and then a 5-percent hike in 2006. Brass tacks: in
2004 the average residential household was paying $44.30 every two months for
sanitary sewer service; in 2009 it could be paying $75.25. That figure would
represent a total increase of nearly 70 percent in just five years.