Utility Service Board is urging customers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic
and currently in arrears to contact the Utility Billing Office as soon as
possible to set up a flexible payment plan.
Doing so will
eventually become necessary, as the utility shut-off moratorium ordered by
Gov. Eric Holcomb earlier this year expired on Friday, Aug. 14. and was not
emphasized at their meeting Monday night, neither they nor the Utility has
any interest in shutting off a customer’s water service. They also made
clear their awareness of the other bills which folks impacted by the
pandemic in all likelihood owe. “There are people in arrears on all their
bills,” Member Scot McCord remarked. “There aren’t many people who are
paying the rest of their bills but not their Utility bill.”
voted unanimously to adopt a “Flexible Payment Plan Policy”:
-- A customer must
request an application for a flexible payment plan online at
www.chestertonin.org or by calling
the Utility Billing Office at 926-1572. The Utility will respond to the
customer, regarding approval status, within five business days after
receiving a completed application.
-- The Utility will
approve a payment plan only for those customers who have not defaulted on a
similar agreement in the past 12 months.
-- The number of
monthly payments can be from two to 12 months. Under an early draft of the
policy, the term was between two and six months, but Schnadenberg, echoing
McCord, insisted that customers have more time to pay, given the good chance
that they’ll be making similar back payments to other creditors.
-- The minimum
monthly payment will be calculated by dividing the approved balance by the
number of payment months.
-- All current
forms of payment offered by the Utility will be accepted.
-- If payment is
not made, current penalty rates will apply, and current disconnection policy
-- Customers must
pay all future bills as they become due in order to avoid any disconnection
adamant that customers move quickly to take advantage of the flexible
payment plan policy. “Customers should begin to think about setting up a
payment plan,” he said. “These bills won’t be forgiven. They’ll still have
to pay them, so it would be good to have a payment plan in place.”
At some point,
those customers who have not arranged a payment plan, and have not begun
paying down their outstanding balances, will have their water service
disconnected. Ryan does not believe that actual disconnections will begin
before Nov. 3, given the circumstances of the Utility’s shut-off partner,
but they will be in the pipeline before that. To that end, members voted
unanimously to extend the Utility’s shut-off moratorium to the date of their
next meeting, Sept. 21, at which time they will re-evaluate the situation on
Ryan did tell the
Service Board that last month the amount in back payments owed by customers
was around $49,000. A month later, he estimated on Monday, that amount has
risen to around $163,000.
In other business,
members voted unanimously to authorize Ryan to begin the process of an
automated clearing house (ACH) system for accepting payments from customers.
ACH would allow the
Utility to automatically withdraw bimonthly rate payments from customers’
Ryan told the
Service Board that, nationwide, ACH payments grew by 6 percent between 2015
and 2018, while check payments fell a corresponding 7 percent during the
same period. Ryan is guessing that a fair number of customers would take
advantage of an ACH system, given that some 16 percent of all Chesterton
Utility customers now pay their fees by credit card.
There is one
particular advantage for customers, Ryan said: they would save nearly two
and a half bucks per payment by using ACH. The transaction fee charged to
customers for credit card payments is $2.41. The transaction fee for ACH
payments: 10 cents.
Pioneer Point Lift
reported that the old Pioneer Point lift station continues to “have trouble”
and that he and O’Dell have begun exploring the feasibility of eliminating
that lift station altogether and installing instead a 12- to 15-inch gravity
line from that point to the Kat lift station. To that end, the two have been
It’s too soon to
tell, however, whether a gravity line would be a more cost-effective option
than simply replacing the Pioneer Point facility, Ryan said. “We’ll be
running the numbers.”
Ryan also reported
that the Utility has taken delivery of its new dump truck, purchased earlier
this year for a net price, including trade-in of the old dump truck, of
Ryan added that he
expects to take delivery of a new backhoe today. Net price, including
trade-in: $98,820, significantly less than the list price of $160,000.
July in Review
In July, Chesterton
used 56.7 percent of its 3,668,000 gallon per day (gpd) allotment at the
wastewater treatment plant; Porter, 44.63 percent of its 851,000 gpd
allotment; the Indian Boundary Conservancy District, 51.27 percent of its
81,000 gpd allotment; and the plant as a whole, 54.37 percent of its
There were no
overflows of wastewater into the Little Calumet River last month, which saw
a total of 2.63 inches of rain.
Also in July, the
Utility ran a surplus of $315,013.02 and in the year-to-date is running a
surplus of $613,585.95.
McCord took a
moment at the end of the meeting to urge folks to continue to be vigilant
and mindful of their health, as the COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs at the
moment of abating. “Please, everybody, stay safe out there,” he said.
Brandt, for his
part, wished Town Manager Bernie Doyle a happy and well-deserved
retirement--which Doyle announced at a Town Council meeting in July--but
reminded him as well that his last day on the job, Dec. 31, is still months
away and that there’s more good work for him to do in the meantime.
Earlier in the
evening, at 6:30 p.m., the Stormwater Management Board held its regular
Members made quick
work of it, with little pressing business on the agenda.
Schnaden-berg reported that the Street Department’s street sweepers are
currently making a second complete pass through town, and that another crew
has been busy repairing storm drains. “That’s been the big thing this
summer, storm drains,” he said.
that interest earned on the $500,000 which the Stormwater Utility deposited
into the Trust Indiana Fund earlier this year totaled $105 over the
two-month period June-July. “There’s more interest in that account than any
other account right now,” he said.
In July, the
Stormwater Utility ran a surplus of $2,882 and in the year-to-date is
running a deficit of $25,989. O’Dell noted that many of the Stormwater
Utility’s ratepayers are similarly in arrears and “that’s a significant
amount of money.”