Chesterton Utility Superintendent Dave Ryan reported 1,158 delinquent
accounts totaling some $96,000, mainly a consequence of the economic
disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In November, that
number had dropped to 500 delinquent accounts.
As of now, that
number has dropped still further, to 310 accounts, approximately 35 percent
of which are in the $50 to $100 range.
That good news
prompted the Utility Service Board at its meeting Monday night to postpone
any decision to begin pursuing water service shut-offs into the New Year.
Well into the New Year, in fact. “Let’s wait another two or three months and
see where we are then,” Member John Schnadenberg suggested.
agreed, the past-due accounts “are trending in the right direction.”
In other business,
members voted unanimously to approve the 2021 budget.
-- It projects a
net income in 2021 of $500,000.
-- The 2021 budget
will be free and clear of around $400,000 of expenses incurred in 2020:
legal costs associated with the Utility’s dispute with the Valparaiso City
Utilities over the latter’s acquisition of the Damon Run Watershed
Conservancy’s sanitary infrastructure; and interest payments on the 2009
bond, which has been retired.
-- That gain will
be partially offset by a projected increase in employee benefits of around
$100,000, including a 2-percent raise.
-- The 2021 budget
projects a 1-percent growth in the customer base, which President Larry
Brandt characterized as “pretty conservative.”
“We do reserve a
couple of million dollars in case we run into a disaster,” Brandt added.
took no action on the request of two customers seeking an extension of the
two-month summer lawn sprinkling credit.
Ryan explained that
both had received the usual summer sprinkling credit in their prior
bimonthly billing statement, based on their winter water usage, but that
they had high water usage well into September and were hoping to obtain a
credit for that late usage as well.
Members declined to
grant the credit on the ground that doing so would prompt similar requests
in the future.
“Why do we have the
policy if we’re just going to make exceptions?” Member Jim Raffin queried.
“I don’t like going
against the policy, I’m sorry,” Member Andy Michael added.
“We’d be opening
ourselves up to having 15 to 20 people in September and October who want a
break,” Member Scot McCord agreed.
Members also voted
unanimously to write-off $1,120.33 in uncollectible accounts, a significant
improvement over past years.
As Brandt noted,
that amount is “phenomenally low.”
November in Review
Chesterton used 49.52 percent of its 3,668,000 gallon per day (gpd)
allotment of the wastewater treatment plant; Porter, 38,86 percent of its
851,000 gpd allotment; the Indian Boundary Conservancy District, 51.05
percent of its 81,000 gpd allotment; and the plant as a whole, 47.85 percent
of its capacity.
There were no
overflows of wastewater last month into the Little Calumet River. A total of
1.77 inches of rain was recorded at the plant in November, to make it the
fourth driest month of 2020.
Also in November,
the Utility ran a surplus of $384,925.90 and in the year-to-date is running
a surplus of $1,016,757.02.
unanimously to change the meeting schedule for the first two months of the
year, to accommodate a pair of municipal holidays which fall on the Service
Board’s usual meeting day: the third Monday of the month.
The Service Board
will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19. Monday, Jan. 18, is Martin Luther King
Jr. Day. And it will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16. Monday, Feb. 15, is
McCord took a
moment at the end of the meeting to express his gratitude to the community
in what has been a difficult year. “I’d like to wish everybody a happy
holiday and to thank the community for the outpouring of support for my
family this past year. And a blessed and peaceful Christmas to the employees
of the Utility, who do such an outstanding job.”
Earlier in the
evening, the Stormwater Management Board also met.
It’s main piece of
business: rescheduling, as the Utility Service Board did and for the same
reason, its January and February meetings.
The board will meet
at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19; and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16.
Members also voted
unanimously to write-off $147.01 in uncollectible accounts; and to authorize
Stormwater Utility Superintendent Mark O’Dell to issue a manual check to DLZ
in the amount of $5,920, for survey work conducted in November as part of
the 1050N ditch piping and infiling project.