Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Council sets rates and charges for Fox Chase Farms sewer hookup in Liberty

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By KEVIN NEVERS

The rates and charges which Fox Chase Farms homeowners will pay to the Chesterton Utility for sanitary sewer service are now on the books.

At its meeting Monday night, the Town Council voted 5-0 to approve on first reading an ordinance creating a “special utility area,” 5-0 to suspend the rules, then 5-0 to approve that ordinance on final reading.

That special utility area includes the Fox Chase Farms subdivision and the Whispering Sands Mobile Home Park--whose sewer systems are both failing--Meridian Road between C.R. 900N and a point just north of Tyson Road, and C.R. 900N between Meridian Road and a point just south of the CSX railroad right-of-way.

Put another way, the special utility area generally describes the route of the sewer line to be installed by the Utility, as it wends its way north and east to the CSX and then under the train tracks before finally emptying into the brand-new lift station built specifically to serve the Ind. 49 corridor south of the Indiana Toll Road.

Any property owners who wish to be served by the special utility area will be bound by the rates and charges established by Monday’s ordinance:

* Unmetered users will initially pay a monthly rate of $96.24, consisting of a monthly user charge of $40.63, the same charge paid by unmetered users in the Town of Chesterton; and a debt service and reserve rate of $55.61, “tied to the cost of putting in the infrastructure,” as Associate Town Attorney Chuck Parkinson explained.

* Metered users will be billed based on the quantity of water used in a month according to the treatment rate of Class I users in the Town of Chesterton, plus a base charge based on the size of the water meter. They will also be billed an initial debt service and reserve charge of $3.67 per 1,0000 gallons. The debt rate will be recalculated at the time of every biennial rate study and will never be greater than the initial rate.

The point of the debt service rate: to re-capture the cost of installing the new sewer line and the rest of the infrastructure. That cost is expected to be lower than it might otherwise have been, thanks to a 0-interest, 20-year loan, as well as a $750,000 grant, which the State Revolving Fund has signaled its commitment to make to the Utility.

Remonstration

At a public hearing prior to the vote, Liberty Township resident Tim Cole stated for the record his unhappiness with the way in which the council is “exerting influence over residents who aren’t able to vote for you.”

Cole also made his feelings clear about the council’s decision years ago, per Indiana Code, to opt out of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission’s jurisdiction. “I think that’s unfair,” he said. “I think that’s wrong.”

Cole then asked the council “what ability (Fox Chase Farms and Whispering Sands) residents will have to control these services,” inasmuch as they’re barred from holding municipal office in the Town of Chesterton. “There should be some mechanism to give them a say in these sewer services,” he insisted.

Cole wondered as well how exactly it is that the Town of Chesterton could create a special utility area in the same part of Liberty Township which the City of Portage attempted to annex once upon a time. “We fought the Portage annexation,” he recalled. “And we were given to understand at the time that Porter had sewer rights all the way to North Calumet Ave. It’s a puzzle to me that you’re attempting to come in with a special sewer district.”

Cole concluded his remarks by citing the opinion of a state official with whom he’s discussed the matter that the special utility area “won’t hold water.”

“I think people need to know that you stand precariously on the edge,” Cole told the council.

Parkinson replied briefly to Cole by noting that any person in a special utility area may file a petition of remonstration to object to the schedule of fees and charges. “Outside users have been notified of that, per code,” he said.

Fox Chase Farms property owners may also address the Utility Service Board at any of its meetings, Parkinson added, while the Town of Porter--the Utility’s largest outside user--sends a representative to each of those meetings to make a monthly report.

“This really is solving a big problem,” Parkinson said. “The Fox Chase Farms system has failed. It is a failing system. The IURC has approved this.”

Liberty Township resident Jeff Larson also spoke from the floor, to ask for some clarification about the relationship between the Utility and the Damon Run Conservancy District and whether the Utility expects to provide any further sewer services to this part of unincorporated Liberty Township in the future.

President Sharon Darnell, D-4th, observing that Monday’s public hearing was on the topic at hand--the Fox Chase Farm and Whispering Sands special utility area--suggested that Larson could perhaps better get his questions answered by the Utility Service Board.

 

 

Posted 6/10/2015

 
 
 
 

 

 

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