Chesterton household will pay not quite 6 percent more for sanitary sewer
service in 2016-17, after the Town Council voted unanimously at its meeting
Monday night to enact a rate hike endorsed by the Utility Service Board.
increase--recommended by the Utility’s contracted financial consultant,
London Witte Group--the bimonthly bill of a household which uses 10,000
gallons of water would go from $81.26 to $85.85: a hike of $4.58 or 5.64
On the other hand,
households which use 15,000 gallons of water would see only a nominal
increase of 0.26 percent; while higher-volume households which use 22,500
gallons would actually see a decrease of 4.14 percent; and those
which use 37,500 gallons would see a decrease of 8.27 percent.
Rate increases for
the Utility’s large customers:
* The Town of
Porter: 8.5 percent.
* The Indian
Boundary Conservancy District: 8.34 percent.
* Fox Chase Farms:
* And Whispering
Sands Mobile Home Park: 2.38 percent.
Ted Sommer of
London Witte Group told the council that behind the hike are “two main
drivers”: to a certain extent the rising cost of “medical expenses” for
Utility employees; but “chiefly a capital improvement program of $2 million
over the next four years.”
President Larry Brandt, for his part, said that a healthy, efficient
infrastructure is key to the Utility and made note of the 1.2-million gallon
storage tank recently completed as part of the federally mandated long term
control plan (LTCP) to reduce combined sewer overflows into the Little
Utility spent approximately $12 million on the tank, Brandt added, a bargain
compared to the $135 million which Fort Wayne is paying to implement its own
LTCP; the $200 million which Hammond is paying; and the $1 billion which
Indianapolis is paying.
four-year capital improvement plan, Brandt also said, will improve the
wastewater plant’s efficiency and increase its capacity, meaning there will
be more capacity to sell to commercial and residential developments and
adding perhaps as many as 20 years to the plant’s life expectancy.
The rate hike has
one other benefit, Brandt said: it will maintain the Utility’s “financial
stability,” enabling it to continue to borrow--when necessary--at low
interest rates and to put aside a “reserve” in case of unexpected
infrastructure failure, the latter certainly possible given the age of some
parts of the town’s collection system.
remonstrated against the hike. The first, Porter Town Council Member William
Lopez wanted to know why the average Chesterton household will be paying
5.64 percent more but the Town of Porter 8.5 percent more.
whose property is unmetered, also objected to rate hike. “You have no idea
how much water I use,” he said. “It’s unmetered. You just bill me. I need
more justification, more facts.”
Sommer told both
Lopez and Heater that he would be glad to sit down with them and explain the
details of the increase. But, generally speaking, the calculations made by
the London Witte Group were based “on a template developed long ago” by the
town of Chesterton and Porter. “It may seem like a lack of intuitiveness,”
he said. “But there’s a different set of flow characteristics in Porter than
Member Dane Lafata,
D-3rd, who participated in the rate discussions, said that he personally
“can’t argue with the numbers.”
public hearing, the council voted 4-0 to approve the new rate ordinance on
first reading, 4-0 to suspend the rules, then 4-0 to approve it on final
reading. Member Lloyd Kittredge, R-2nd, was not in attendance.
Because of the
current bimonthly water-reading schedule--Dec. 10 to Feb. 10--the rate hike
“will not be shown on the bills until February,” Clerk-Treasurer Stephanie
In other business,
members voted unanimously to write off $2,303 in uncollectable refuse and
recycling accounts, owed by former Chesterton property owners who’ve sold
their homes or otherwise moved out of town.
Members also voted
unanimously to approve a $13,215 contract with American Legal Publishing to
re-codify the Town Code. Kuziela described the re-codification as
“housekeeping” and said that the Town Code would be consolidated and