Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Utility decides against water shut offs anytime soon for delinquent customers

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By KEVIN NEVERS

In October, Chesterton Utility Superintendent Dave Ryan reported 1,158 delinquent accounts totaling some $96,000, mainly a consequence of the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In November, that number had dropped to 500 delinquent accounts.

As of now, that number has dropped still further, to 310 accounts, approximately 35 percent of which are in the $50 to $100 range.

That good news prompted the Utility Service Board at its meeting Monday night to postpone any decision to begin pursuing water service shut-offs into the New Year. Well into the New Year, in fact. “Let’s wait another two or three months and see where we are then,” Member John Schnadenberg suggested.

Certainly, Ryan agreed, the past-due accounts “are trending in the right direction.”

2021 Budget

In other business, members voted unanimously to approve the 2021 budget.

That budget’s highlights:

-- It projects a net income in 2021 of $500,000.

-- The 2021 budget will be free and clear of around $400,000 of expenses incurred in 2020: legal costs associated with the Utility’s dispute with the Valparaiso City Utilities over the latter’s acquisition of the Damon Run Watershed Conservancy’s sanitary infrastructure; and interest payments on the 2009 bond, which has been retired.

-- That gain will be partially offset by a projected increase in employee benefits of around $100,000, including a 2-percent raise.

-- The 2021 budget projects a 1-percent growth in the customer base, which President Larry Brandt characterized as “pretty conservative.”

“We do reserve a couple of million dollars in case we run into a disaster,” Brandt added.

Lawn Watering Credits Sought

Meanwhile, members took no action on the request of two customers seeking an extension of the two-month summer lawn sprinkling credit.

Ryan explained that both had received the usual summer sprinkling credit in their prior bimonthly billing statement, based on their winter water usage, but that they had high water usage well into September and were hoping to obtain a credit for that late usage as well.

Members declined to grant the credit on the ground that doing so would prompt similar requests in the future.

“Why do we have the policy if we’re just going to make exceptions?” Member Jim Raffin queried.

“I don’t like going against the policy, I’m sorry,” Member Andy Michael added.

“We’d be opening ourselves up to having 15 to 20 people in September and October who want a break,” Member Scot McCord agreed.

Write-Offs

Members also voted unanimously to write-off $1,120.33 in uncollectible accounts, a significant improvement over past years.

As Brandt noted, that amount is “phenomenally low.”

November in Review

In November, Chesterton used 49.52 percent of its 3,668,000 gallon per day (gpd) allotment of the wastewater treatment plant; Porter, 38,86 percent of its 851,000 gpd allotment; the Indian Boundary Conservancy District, 51.05 percent of its 81,000 gpd allotment; and the plant as a whole, 47.85 percent of its capacity.

There were no overflows of wastewater last month into the Little Calumet River. A total of 1.77 inches of rain was recorded at the plant in November, to make it the fourth driest month of 2020.

Also in November, the Utility ran a surplus of $384,925.90 and in the year-to-date is running a surplus of $1,016,757.02.

January/February Meetings

Members voted unanimously to change the meeting schedule for the first two months of the year, to accommodate a pair of municipal holidays which fall on the Service Board’s usual meeting day: the third Monday of the month.

The Service Board will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19. Monday, Jan. 18, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And it will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16. Monday, Feb. 15, is Presidents Day.

Last Thought

McCord took a moment at the end of the meeting to express his gratitude to the community in what has been a difficult year. “I’d like to wish everybody a happy holiday and to thank the community for the outpouring of support for my family this past year. And a blessed and peaceful Christmas to the employees of the Utility, who do such an outstanding job.”

Stormwater Management Board

Earlier in the evening, the Stormwater Management Board also met.

It’s main piece of business: rescheduling, as the Utility Service Board did and for the same reason, its January and February meetings.

The board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19; and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16.

Members also voted unanimously to write-off $147.01 in uncollectible accounts; and to authorize Stormwater Utility Superintendent Mark O’Dell to issue a manual check to DLZ in the amount of $5,920, for survey work conducted in November as part of the 1050N ditch piping and infiling project.

 

Posted 12/22/20

 
 
 
 

 

 

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