Chesterton Tribune


Porter hydrant fee pending; BH fee being revised up

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Whether Porter will become the last town in the state to pass along to residents its hydrant user fees will be put to a final vote Dec. 11.

Meeting Tuesday, the Porter Town Council voted 5-0 on first reading to pass along to Indiana American Water Co.ís customers residing in Porter the companyís related costs to furnish water for public fire-protection purposes.

The fee would be added to IAWCís basic rates and charges. Residents who do not use IAWC water will not be assessed.

The exact amount of the hydrant fee residents will pay is not yet known, but the cost now paid by the town will be divided between Porterís approximately 1,200 IAWC customers.

No member of the public commented Tuesday regarding the hydrant fee.

Council member Elka Nelson said with the current property-tax circuit breakers in place and the number of pending property-tax appeals in Porter, additional revenue is needed to expand police coverage and offset the anticipated decrease in tax receipts.

Nelson said the council is doing all it can to cut costs to stretch the budget. No council members are covered under the town employee medical-insurance policy, a savings of about $20,000 a year, and some positions in town government have been consolidated to save money, she explained.

A 2013 salary ordinance was adopted during the meeting. Council president Greg Stinson later said all the town could afford to give its employees next year is a 2 percent raise.

The hydrant fee first was proposed by Nelson at the Nov. 13 meeting. At that time it was stated Porter might free up about $113,000 annually for other uses if residents pay the fee instead of the town. A previous Porter council imposed a hydrant fee in 2003 but the next council rescinded it in 2005.

Burns Harbor authorized passing its own IAWC hydrant user fee Oct. 17 of this year, but now its council president said heís having second thoughts after the amount residents would pay there is turning out to be much more than first anticipated.

Discussion regarding the Burns Harbor fee cited an approximate monthly charge of $4.12 being added to IAWC bills there; no opposition was voiced by residents last month, and a former council member said the new revenue is needed to cover town operating expenses.

Tuesday, clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan confirmed she subsequently was contacted by David Ryan, IAWC manager of operations, who said calculations show the actual fee would be closer to $10 or $11 a month based on having approximately 456 water customers in town.

Jordan said she forwarded Ryanís email to Burns Harbor council members last week.

Asked Tuesday for his reaction, council president Jim McGee said itís news to him. ďThis is the first Iíve heard of it.Ē He said he recently returned from out of state and knows thereís been trouble with the new town email system.

ďI thought $4 was fine but $11, oh wow,Ē continued McGee. Had he received Jordanís email message, he added, ďJane would have heard from me, even if I was in Egypt. I donít want to pay that; Iím a resident.Ē

Itís not clear how the original $4.12 estimate came about. McGee said the town tried to get a reliable figure from IAWC and thought they had it. Nelson said thatís why Porter officials are hesitant to quote a monthly fee amount until theyíre sure what it would be.

McGee said the Burns Harbor council definitely will discuss its fee at the Dec. 12 meeting. He questioned whether the council should pass along the substantially higher cost to residents, if in fact the current figures are correct, especially since itís unclear how IAWC would regulate the amount it charges in coming years.

Chesterton for several years has had IAWC include in its customer billings the costs for hydrant maintenance related to fire protection there.

In other fee news, the Porter council introduced and set for final approval Dec. 11 an ordinance that would increase the rate and charge to be collected per residential household for future garbage pickup and disposal. The current $13.89 charge will increase to $14.24 next year and $14.59 in 2014.



Posted 11/28/2012