Chesterton Tribune



IURC okays town to intervene in Fox Chase receiver's emergency rate case

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The bids for the Fox Chase Farms/Whispering Sands sanitary sewer connection are still under review, but the Chesterton Utility Service Board did have a bit of news about the project at its meeting Monday night.

President Larry Brandt announced that the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) has approved the Town of Chesterton’s petition to intervene in 1st American Management Company’s emergency rate increase case, currently before the IURC.

1st American is the court-appointed receiver of Fox Chase’s failing septic mound system, which had been operated by MTA LLC, doing business as Centurion Utilities. Around a year ago 1st American petitioned the IURC for the authority to raise sewer rates for the subdivision’s residents by nearly 50 percent--from $65 to $95--to cover the cost of “immediate infrastructure improvements” to the mound system.

In fact that infrastructure won’t be so much improved as scrapped and replaced, by brand-new infrastructure connecting Fox Chase--via the Ind. 49 utility corridor lift station--to Chesterton’s sanitary sewer system. Piggybacking on that new line will be the Whispering Sands Mobile Home Park, whose package wastewater treatment plant is also failing.

The estimated cost of the project: $2.1 million, which will be financed, through the State Revolving Fund, with a 20-year 0-percent loan and a $750,000 grant. The cost will be borne entirely by Fox Chase and Whispering Sands residents and any other Liberty Township property owner who may, at some point in the future, wish to be connected to the infrastructure.

As the IURC noted in its decision granting the Town of Chesterton permission to intervene in 1st American’s rate case, such a petition may be filed by “any person or entity alleging a substantial interest in the subject matter of the proceeding.”

As Brandt noted after the meeting, for a project of such complexity, with so many moving parts and involving so many interested parties, things have been moving remarkably smoothly over the last year or so.

Meanwhile, Superintendent Terry Atherton and Town Engineer Mark O’Dell continue to review the four bids received for the project on Feb. 20.

Those bids:

* Gatlin Plumbing & Heating Inc. of Griffith: $1,672,726.

* Hasse Construction Company Inc. of Calumet City, Ill.: $1,705,495.

* Selge Construction Company Inc. of Niles, Mich.: $1,750,990.

* G.E. Marshall Inc. of Valparaiso: $1,980,368.50.

New Billing Employee Needed

In other business, the Service Board voted 3-0 to authorize Atherton to hire a new employee for the Billing Department, should he find a qualified one.

The position is necessitated, Brandt said, by three recent developments: it turns out, for one thing, that the new credit card payment option is more “time consuming” than anyone had anticipated; for another, Indiana American Water Company (IAWC) is now sending monthly water-usage reports to the Utility as IAWC prepares to move from a bimonthly to a monthly billing; and, finally, “a lot of man-hours are required to work on the list of customers who don’t pay.”

While on the subject of credit-card payments, Atherton reported that already 224 customers have used that option to pay their sewer bill, quickly closing in--that is--on the 300 needed to cover the cost of processing those payments, “which it must do,” Brandt hastened to add, “because the Utility’s other customers can’t subsidize that cost.”

February in Review

In February, Chesterton used 35.9 percent of its 3,668,000 gallon per day (gpd) allotment of the wastewater treatment plant; Porter, 44.95 percent of its 851,000 gpd allotment; the Indian Boundary Conservancy District, 61.26 percent of its 81,000 gpd allotment; and that plant as a whole, 38.02 percent of its capacity.

There were no bypasses of sewage into the Little Calumet River last month.

Also in February, the Utility ran a deficit of $290,646 and in the year-to-date is running a deficit of $105,855.



Posted 3/18/2015




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