mulls tap fee increase
By Sean McNab
Star Staff Writer
CEDAR LAKE - The Town Council mulled over whether or
not to increase the sewer tap-in fee at its work session on Aug. 14.
Council members were concerned that a fee
increase could lead to litigation by local developers.
"We have heard that if we raise the rate
even $1 we have a good possibility that we will be taken to court,"
said Councilman Dana Plant. The Northwest Indiana Builder's
Association is watching to see if the rates increase or not. My
suggestion is that instead of increasing the rate as much as has been
suggested, maybe we should increase it in increments over a four-year
The city's financial consulting firm, H.J.
Umbaugh and Associates, recommended the tap-in fee be increased from
$500 to $1,655.
At a previous council meeting, representatives
from Umbaugh explained to members of the public that the tap-in fee was
based on the "equity each customer has with the sewer
company." The consultants went on to say that the proposed fee is
in line with surrounding communities'.
A similar process took place in Schererville
over the past year, when the tap-in fee was raised and then contended by
the Northwest Indiana Builders Association. The city lost the case but
it was then overturned by the state Supreme Court and the increase
"We are moving into a new period with
regards to the sanitary sewer situation in this town," Town
Attorney David Austgen stated. "Schererville has already set a
precedent that if litigation is sought, we could win the case."
Town Council President Robert Brannon, a
life-long resident of Cedar Lake, said he did not understand the
reasoning for the increase in sewer tap-in fees.
"I really do not understand why the rates
are being increased," he said. "As an owner of property in the
town, I have always been paid well with regards to value of my property.
I can say that by increasing these rates this in no way will be helping
A decision on the tap-in fee could be made at
the next Town Council meeting on Aug. 28.
In other business, Lori Dowling was named
interim director of the town's Emergency Medical Services Department.
Other employees were assigned to new positions.
"A change needed to be made," said
Councilman David Fritts. "We are presently searching for a director
for the services and feel a full-time director will be named in the
discount extended 1 month
By Andrew Steele
Star Managing Editor
CROWN POINT - The City Council has extended the
summer sewer rate discount program through September.
According to the updated law, sewer rates for June, July, August, and
September will be calculated based on water usage rates in January,
February, and March.
Because sewer rates are based on the amount of
water used, and because many residents use substantial amounts of water
during the summer that do not end up in the sewer system - for example,
for watering lawns or filling pools - the council decided last year to
use winter water-usage to calculate June through August sewer bills.
City Councilwoman Pam Roth, R-3rd, urged the
council at its regular August meeting to extend the program through
Council members originally considered doing the extension through
September for this year only, then considering the matter each year.
Instead, they made the extension permanent.
The new law was passed at the council's Aug. 15
budget development underway
By Andrew Steele
Star Managing Editor
CROWN POINT - Mayor James Metros submitted what
he called "a fat budget" to the City Council last week to
start the month-long process of approving a spending plan for the year
"I want you to assist me in making the
proper cuts," Metros told the council. He said the preliminary
budget reflected on increase of about 5 percent over last year.
The budget submitted at the Aug. 15 council
meeting included a total general fund of $9,149,490. With various other
funds, the budget rose to $14,561,184.
Metros said any budget cuts will likely be
small ones from various line items throughout the budget.
The mayor also talked about the need for long term planning, noting that
the city's financial consultant, Greg Guerrettaz, is developing a
financial master plan and a capitcal improvement plan for the city.
Among the long-term issues city officials need
to look at is the condition of the Emergency Services Building, Metros
The building's roof has been a problem since it was built and the
closed-ventilation system needs to be corrected, officials said. And
mold has become a significant problem on walls and carpets and in the
air. Also, the building is too small to
house all emergency vehicles.
Metros said City Engineer Jeff Ban is preparing a
report that will detail various options for the building.
"We've gotta start planning on how we pay
for that," Metros said.
One long-considered project that may be funded
this year is a set of emergency warning sirens. The Board of Public
Works and Safety budget includes $80,000 for those, though shifting that
to one of the "cumulative" funds, outside the general fund,
The money would purchase four sirens to be put
in different areas of the city. They would be used to warn residents of
City officials are also discussing reducing the
garbage subsidy for residents. Currently, residents pay only $2 per
month for weekly garbage collection, though the service costs nearly
$10. The balance is made up by the city, which pays about $781,000
Councilmembers had several ideas about
reducing the city's obligation, including increasing residents' monthly
fee by $2; eliminating the city "subsidy" and having residents
pay the full cost of trash collection; and shifting to a
"pay-as-you-throw" system that would charge residents based on
how much trash they throw away.
Budget discussion continued at a Monday council
meeting, and on Wednesday, the council was scheduled to consider the
budget on first reading, and to hold a first reading on the elected
officials salary ordinance for 2002.