Chesterton Tribune



1300 back sewer billing not right Porter residents tell Town Council

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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 absent.

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 7 p.m.

* Adopted on final reading was a ban on parking on both sides of a portion of Summertree Drive.



Posted 9/9/2013