The Porter Town Council agreed to temporarily suspend collection efforts
against nine residents, some of whom who said Tuesday they’re being treated
unfairly when it comes to sewer billing.
Council vice-president Jeannine Virtue, who chaired the meeting, apologized
and asked for more time to work out a solution. President Elka Nelson was
Councilman Greg Stinson told the residents, “I’m on your side. We need to
take a look at this. I don’t know what can be done.”
The dispute involves residents who have a 1-inch Indiana American Water Co.
water meter at their home; Porter bills for sewage treatment based on water
consumption. The town sewer ordinance adopted in 2010 designates standard
residential meters as 3/4-inch or 5/8-inch in size.
Porter clerk-treasurer Carol Pomeroy said when IAWC modified its bills
recently to include meter size, the town caught the nine discrepancies,
began billing their 1-inch meters at a different rate and sought the back
money due --- approximately $1,300 from each of the residents.
"Call your dogs off of us,” urged Kenny Harris from the audience last night.
Another man described the letters received by the affected residents as
heavy-handed and intimidating. Ruth McNamara said her letter was
“unbelievable” and thought the bill had been turned over to a collection
agency without prior notice from the town.
Town attorney Gregg Sobkowski said the letter was from him. He said it was
not intended to be aggressive or upsetting, but under the federal Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act the letter had to be worded the way it was.
Virtue said Porter has to follow its own sewer ordinance, but the residents
should have gotten a heads-up there was a problem before the collection
letter was sent.
Stinson said although the letter demanded immediate payment, it also urged
the residents to contact Sobkowski’s office to set up a payment plan so
there would be an opportunity for a reasonable resolution.
Charles Loveless said the town wants $1,350 from him but he doesn’t believe
he’s done anything wrong. He had no say what size meter IAWC put in his
home, Loveless told the council, adding that an IAWC representative told him
1-inch is a residential meter, not commercial.
Pomeroy said it’s Porter’s ordinance that applies, not IAWC’s opinion. “I’m
sorry you fell into that,” she told Loveless.
McNamara said she’s using no more water than her neighbors are so she should
be charged their same residential rate.
Virtue said the council will consider the matter again when it next meets
Sept. 17. Stinson later thanked the residents present for being civil
Tuesday despite the letters being a shock to them. He said good things can
happen when calm discourse prevails.
In other business:
* Pending confirmation of insurance, the Town Council approved an assembly
permit for organizers to conduct a road race through Porter streets Oct. 12
as a fundraiser for Rebuilding Together.
* On fire chief Lewis Craig’s recommendation the council voted 4-0 to donate
the Fire Department’s surplus 1999 Suburban to the Portage Fire Department
for arson investigations. Craig said Portage has obtained grants that
benefited Porter in the past.
* Park director Brian Bugajski reminded that the Sept. 17 Park Board meeting
will begin at 6 p.m. due to a scheduled Town Council 2014 budget workshop at
* Adopted on final reading was a ban on parking on both sides of a portion
of Summertree Drive.