Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

27 percent sewer rate hike proposed in Porter

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The Porter Town Council will solicit public comment next month on a proposed 27-percent hike in sanitary sewer rates that would increase the average two-month bill by $28.94.

The additional revenue will get Porterís Sewer Utility, which posted a $122,948 loss in 2008 and a $104,484 loss last year, back into the black and provide money for future capital improvements. Financial consultant Karl Cender said the department needs to boost its revenue by $303,000 annually to meet its goals.

Cender told council members that if an upcoming $5.1 million bond sale for major sewer upgrades were not being repaid with property taxes and Porter County income-tax revenue, the town would need a nearly 65-percent sewer increase instead of 27 percent to repay those bonds with user fees.

After the meeting Cender said his calculations did not factor in any future rate increases from the town of Chesterton, which processes Porterís sewage for a fee. Cender said Porter has not heard anything officially about a pending Chesterton rate increase although indications are it wonít be large.

Porterís rate increase, if approved, wonít take effect until September. The percentage of increase will be higher for non-metered customers whose bills previously were based on 3,985 gallons per month; Cender said the new average will be 5,000 gallons per month.

Councilman Todd Martin asked if there would be any way to defer the double impact to non-metered customers. Council president Michele Bollinger said no because for many years theyíve been given a break and if their numbers werenít adjusted, all Porter sewer customers would face a 32-percent rate hike.

The sewer-rate adjustments will be introduced July 27 prior to a formal public hearing Aug. 24.

In a related matter, clerk-treasurer Carol Pomeroy said she is anticipating a total $9,340 more revenue per billing cycle due to completion of a parcel-by-parcel review of who is being billed for what --- and who isnít. A consultant hired last year identified 465 new parcels not being billed.

Additionally 288 existing accounts had stormwater fees not being assessed for an increase of $2,304 per billing cycle; 42 new flat-rate accounts were billed for sewer, recycling and stormwater fees for an increase of $5,076 per cycle; 40 new accounts will bring in a total $1,200 more by adding recycling and stormwater fees; and 95 new vacant parcels will be assessed stormwater fees to raise $760 more.

The clerk said she wanted to warn property owners that the newly found data is being entered into the billing system. ďIf you have escaped from being billed, consider yourself lucky but the partyís over.Ē

Pomeroy also reported that over the last six years since taking office, her department has reduced the delinquent accounts from $280,000 to $56,841 in outstanding current sewer bills. Liens and other methods of collection are being used.

Earlier in the evening the Porter Redevelopment Commission with members Jon Granat, Ron Stone and Michael Genger absent unanimously adopted three resolutions paving the way for the bond sale that will finance mandated upgrades to the townís sewer lines and lift stations. Porter faces state sanctions and fines if the work isnít done.

A preliminary bond resolution was adopted and July 27 at 6 p.m. a public hearing will take place at the town hall to hear concerns and questions regarding the planned $5.1 million bond sale. The commission also adopted a resolution stating that it needs 100 percent of the future applicable revenue generated in Porterís designated economic development areas to repay its majority share of the bonds and other ongoing projects; the Town Council will repay the balance of the bond sale using CEDIT funds.



Posted 7/14/2010




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