Chesterton Tribune

Porter getting IDEM sewer permit for first time since 2002, faces huge expense to upgrade system

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By PAULENE POPARAD

The Town of Porter comes into compliance April 1 when its new permit for operation and maintenance of a sewage collection system becomes effective. The previous 1997 permit expired in 2002.

The Town Council discussed Tuesday whether to appeal the terms of the new five-year operations permit issued by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. Town enginner Warren Thiede said an appeal could be made that the town doesn’t have everything the permit is demanding from the standpoint of staff, resources and equipment.

Town attorney Patrick Lyp said the permit, known as a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System or NPDES permit, is a binding agreement. “If there are things in there you know we won’t be able to meet, I’d rather (IDEM) know now.”

Appealing may give the town more time to get its sewer affairs in better order, he advised.

Council president Bill Sexton said compliance with a separate IDEM agreed order mandating modernization of the Porter sanitary-sewer system, estimated to cost between $4 million and $10 million, is more difficult to satisfy than the NPDES permit.

According to council member Dave Babcock, “I don’t think we have much of a choice” than to accept the permit terms.

He said even if the town doesn’t have enough sewer personnel and equipment today, IDEM is aware efforts are being made to provide for them in the future. Sexton also said the NPDES permit identifies Porter’s sewer overflow points as the Porter Avenue and the Triangle Trail lift stations and the town has committed to moving forward with upgrades at both sites under the agreed order.

During March, no sewer overflows occurred. Previous such overflows triggered the IDEM enforcement action that led to the agreed order.

Because of it, the council voted 4-0 with Jon Granat absent to enter into an agreement with Flocis for $16,075 for 12 flow meters, software and training. The meters will monitor sewer flow at key points. “We really need this project started,” said town Public Works director Brenda Brueckheimer.

The council also accepted by consensus the low bid of JGI Innovation at $2,458 for a meter at the 23rd Street lift station. Gasvoda quoted $4,500. Brueckheimer said a meter is needed now at that station.

As she has done in the past, Brueckheimer urged residents and business owners to be vigilant about what is being flushed into sanitary sewers. Over the last 14 days town workers have pulled an inordinate amount of debris including diapers, commercial mopheads and underwear from malfunctioning lift stations around town. “These are not grinder pumps,” said Brueckheimer.

As the cost for upgrading the sewer system rises, the Porter Sewer Department has about $82,000 in unpaid sewer bills.

Clerk-treasurer Carol Pomeroy won council permission on a 4-0 vote to have Sexton sign a contract with C.B.M. Account Services of South Bend to collect $31,691 from about 40 people, mostly former renters. The balance of the $82,000 largely is liened against delinquent properties or is being addressed by Indiana American Water Co., which does Porter’s sewer billing.

C.B.M. Account Services will keep 33 percent to 45 percent of any money collected but at council member Michele Bollinger’s suggestion, late fees and the cost of collection can be added to the renter’s bill, said Lyp.

Pomeroy said she has one separate sewer account that owes over $8,000. The water has been shut off and a lien placed on the property but bottled water is being used. Lyp said if it’s cost-effective, the town could sue the owner and force a sheriff’s sale but perhaps the lawsuit alone would prompt a bank involved to settle.

Sexton asked building commissioner Art Elwood to consult the Porter County Health Department about this site and one on Arrowhead Trail north of Woodlawn Avenue. Neighbor Betty Samilson said that home is littered with junk inside and out. Brueckheimer concurred the home has been a longstanding problem but Elwood said until the town adopts a new codification of ordinances, his possible enforcement actions are limited.

On another health and safety matter, Police Chief James Spanier was given council permission to take action to have a dog deemed dangerous removed from a home in the 300 block of Indiana Street. The dog bit a mail carrier several months ago, was relocated but has moved back in the home and the owner will not put the dog down or remove the animal. A ticket has been issued.

Sexton said the town takes such situations seriously. “We’ve been consistent and we should remain consistent.” Bollinger asked if the town would be liable if the animal bites again. Lyp said no but it’s always possible to be sued nevertheless.

On Lyp’s recommendation he will send a letter to the owner of Oakhill Garden Nursery, which has drawn complaints the past few years for conducting a public iris festival at his Oak Hill Road home resulting in parking congestion and traffic problems. The town last year placed No Parking signs on Oak Hill but Lyp suggested being proactive; the three-day 2007 festival, advertised on the nursery’s sales website, was in May.

In other action Tuesday:

•The council approved an April 26 assembly permit for State Park Little League for a parade from L.A. Bell Motor Lines to Hawthorne Park to kick off the youth baseball season.

•Spanier reminded Porter residents that as warmer weather returns, so do car thieves. He urged that vehicles be locked when not in use. He also asked anyone who was at the Porter Quick Stop, 20 E. U.S. 20, around the time of a 7:03 p.m. gunpoint robbery Easter Sunday to contact Porter Police at 926-7611.

•Brueckheimer asked residents to call the Public Works Department to schedule leaf and brush pick-up; regular routes will resume next month. Residents also are asked to leave old newspapers at the 550 Beam Street Public Works building for an upcoming landscaping project.

•Brueckheimer said the town’s trash hauler, Allied Waste, will take bagged grass clippings; she asked that clippings not be left in ditches or swales. The council approved accepting applications only for summer Street Department help, and Brueckheimer said potholes needing attention should be reported there.

•May 3 and 4 Public Works will host a yard sale as a fundraiser for the Porter Sesquicentennial celebration. Town Council members were asked to be judges for the July 4 parade and Brueckheimer, who’s on the 150th birthday committee, asked if the town’s insurance can be used for the event. She was authorized to contact the carrier.

•Brueckheimer thanked the Friends of Porter for their assistance planning the sesquicentennial. The organizing committee meets the second and fourth Monday at 6 p.m. at the Public Works building and needs volunteers.

 

Posted 3/26/2008