Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

August 24 hearing set on 27 percent sewer rate hike in Porter

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By PAULENE POPARAD

Aug. 24 Porter residents can comment on a proposed 27-percent increase in sanitary sewer rates.

The Town Council set that date Tuesday after introducing the enabling ordinance on a 4-0 vote. Member Dave Babcock was absent.

In August, 2008 the Town Council increased rates by 30 percent and at that time anticipated needing a second 30-percent hike in late 2009, which never occurred.

The current 27-percent proposal would have been 59 percent, said council president Michele Bollinger, if the town hadn’t chosen to raise $5.1 million for an upcoming sewer modernization by pledging a combination of property taxes and Porter County income tax revenue to repay the bonds instead.

The 27-percent hike will generate about $300,000 more annually for the Porter sewer utility, which has posted losses the last two years.

Last night, Nina Kizer-Hershman said during public comment that she opposes the rate hike. “The town’s cut our services and raised our bill, that’s what we see.” She said if the pending increase is adopted, her sewer rate will more than double since moving to Porter.

Kizer-Hershman also complained about recycling being picked up only every two weeks and about a sewer-gas smell in her area of Oak Hill Road on the west side of Wagner Road.

Porter director of engineering Matt Keiser said the smell actually could be leaching off slag used during a recent sewer reconstruction there. Public Works superintendent Brenda Brueckheimer said she tested the area and hopefully the smell will subside with a few good rains.

As for the recycling, Bollinger said the town pays for about 40 percent of the trash/recycling cost without passing the whole contract price on to residents, who pay a monthly user fee.

Regarding the planned sewer upgrades, the Town Council unanimously adopted a resolution paving the way for the Porter Redevelopment Commission’s issuance of revenue bonds to pay for the project.

The RDC will borrow and repay $4.1 million of the cost and the council $1 million, both over a maximum 15 years.

Brueckheimer reported that Porter recorded 5.7 inches of rain this past weekend which required the sewage utility to overflow 23,000 gallons from a lift station into the receiving waterway because the system was overloaded.

Beach parking defended

Porter Beach property owner Carl Dahlin, who at the July 13 council meeting was criticized for causing a traffic jam at the beach over the July 4 holiday, defended himself last night.

"You can’t blame it on me. I’ve given my life to that place,” said Dahlin, whose lawyer sent a letter to town attorney Patrick Lyp over the allegations.

Dahlin said the real problem was that the town sells 500 beach parking permits but has only 30 parking spaces in its lot so he let permit holders park on his property.

Resident Karen Pisowicz said the National Park Service is the problem because it doesn’t have enough parking spaces at Porter Beach either and rangers should make overflow traffic looking for a place to park turn around through the NPS lot, not on the public street.

Resident Robert Kuna, who criticized Dahlin two weeks ago, agreed parking will be an issue until the NPS expands its lot. “Do everybody in the area a favor and sell your place to the park service,” he told Dahlin, adding that funds for land acquisition could be sought in the next Congressional session.

Dahlin described his commercial property as the last piece of privately owned land on Lake Michigan and said he’s only asking fair market value.

Detour to see construction

Keiser announced that work will begin Aug. 9 on constructing a new bridge over U.S. 20 at Indiana 49. Intermittent lane closures and some ramps may be affected.

U.S. 20 east to Indiana 49 south to U.S. 6 west is the designated detour for traffic that uses Indiana 149 in Burns Harbor when that highway is closed beginning Aug. 13 for two months to widen a railroad crossing there and reconfigure the U.S. 20 intersection.

The Indiana Department of Transportation is responsible for both the Porter and Burns Harbor projects.

Keiser said traffic is expected to keep moving through the Indiana 49 area during that construction, and he speculated the southbound Indiana 49 ramp from U.S. 20 likely won’t have much involvement during the bridge replacement.

Nevertheless, “It’ll be convoluted, about a nine-month process,” he predicted. Porter is using grant money to pay for aesthetic bridge enhancements to upgrade its appeal.

In other business, Keiser said he, other town officials including Bollinger, and representatives of the Northwest Indiana Paddlers’ Assoc. and the state Department of Natural Resources canoed along the Little Calumet River from approximately Waverly Road to Mineral Springs Road looking for log jams to be cleared.

“It’s really unique,” said Keiser of the river course. Grants will be sought to restore the waterway and develop a canoe launch.

In other matters Tuesday:

•Lyp said he is addressing a zoning violation where a man has had up to 100 cats; town code limits the number to six. Neighbors have submitted a petition asking the problem be resolved soon.

•Building commissioner Art Elwood said the new charter school in Porter hopes to occupy the building Aug. 9. Classes start this school year.

•The council voted 4-0 to renew its health insurance with current carrier Benefit Administrative Systems; an 8 percent increase will occur but Bollinger said other quotes were not as competitive.

•Keiser reminded the public of an open house tonight at 7 p.m. at the town hall to hear about, ask questions and talk one-on-one with consultants for the planned Gateway to the Indiana Dunes project.

•It was announced a copy of the proposed invasive-species language to be added to the Porter Beach zoning overlay is available for inspection at the town hall and on the town website.

 

Posted 7/28/2010

 

 

 

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