Crown Point council dis­cusses util­i­ties up­grade, mas­ter plans

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - News - By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tri­bune

New mas­ter plans for Crown Point’s waste and stormwa­ter util­i­ties seek to keep its in­fra­struc­ture in good shape, but in­clude po­ten­tial fee in­creases, an of­fi­cial said.

City En­gi­neer Al Stong pre­sented his fi­nal draft of the two util­ity mas­ter plans to the Com­mon Council’s Util­ity Board at the Oct. 24 meet­ing. A year-and-a-half in the mak­ing, Stong said both 20-year plans al­low the city to an­tic­i­pate its needs and ac­com­mo­date con­tin­ued growth within that time­line with­out get­ting caught in sit­u­a­tions where the ad­min­is­tra­tion would have to re­act to a cat­a­strophic event, as it did in 2008.

The first plan pre­sented, the waste­water plan, would have the city in­stall 42-inch to 60-inch sewer pipe on the city’s south­west side, Stong said Fri­day. The project would start at the city’s waste­water t reat­ment plant, ex­tend west to South Street, then back west to In­di­ana Street and would take pres­sure off the ex­ist­ing sew­ers.

“When it rains, waste tends to over­flow into the creeks, and that causes the city to be out of com­pli­ance with (In­di­ana De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Man­age­ment) reg­u­la­tions,” Stong said. “If (a res­i­dent) doesn’t have is­sues with waste­water back­ing up, they won’t no­tice a dif­fer­ence, but those who do will see some re­lief.”

In or­der to pay for that up­grade, Stong said he and his firm mod­eled an in­crease af­ter a Lehman & Lehman park re­cre­ation fee study the city com­mis- sioned in 2017. Cur­rently, new res­i­dents to Crown Point pay $1,920 to con­nect to the city’s sewer sys­tem; other com­mu­ni­ties pay up­wards of $5,000 to con­nect, Stong said.

Any in­crease in fees, then, would be kept in a sep­a­rate fund and used ex­pressly for main­te­nance to the sewer lines. It’ll be up to city ad­min­is­tra­tors to de­ter­mine how much and when they would im­ple­ment the fees, how­ever, Stong said.

The stormwa­ter mas­ter plan took sev­eral components into con­sid­er­a­tion, Stong said, in­clud­ing the stormwa­ter sys­tem’s value, its bud­get to main­tain and its con­di­tion. The sys­tem it­self is val­ued at $120 mil­lion, so when the city bud­gets for its main­te­nance over a use­ful life of be­tween 70 and 100 years, the amount it should be bud­get­ing is $1.2 mil­lion per year, or 1 per­cent of its to­tal value, for re­pairs, he said.

The city cur­rently spends $600,000 per year, though, Stong said, of which res­i­dents pay $6 per month for stormwa­ter and non-res­i­den­tial en­ti­ties pay just $12 a month – amounts agreed upon by the city un­til a full anal­y­sis was con­ducted.

A po­ten­tial rate in­crease for non-res­i­den­tial en­ti­ties would be based on how many .65-acre mea­sure­ments com­prise the en­tity’s space. Stong said. That would likely re­sult in sub­stan­tial bill in­creases for busi­nesses with large foot­prints, such as Fran­cis­can Crown Point or the new YMCA on the south end of town, but could pro­vide a de­crease for busi­nesses on the Square.

The rev­enue in­crease, mean­while, would add be- tween 30 per­cent and 40 per­cent to the stormwa­ter main­te­nance cof­fers, Stong said.

To mit­i­gate the in­crease, Stong said non-res­i­dent en­ti­ties would be of­fered a 20 per­cent dis­count to their stormwa­ter bills if they in­vest in their prop­er­ties to help with runoff. For ex­am­ple, they can in­stall re­ten­tion ponds on their prop­erty or lay down im­per­vi­ous pave­ment. A rain gar­den would work, too, Stong said.

Stong’s firm and the city sent out sur­veys to res­i­dents and iden­ti­fied four ar­eas – Lib­erty Park, Briar Creek, Sil­ver Hawk and Green­wood and Main Street near the Lake County Fair­grounds — where the stormwa­ter pipes are un­der­sized for the area. Ad­di­tion­ally, the sur­vey de­ter­mined that Main Street to 113th could use a par­al­lel storm line that would help pre­vent man­hole cov­ers along the route from pop­ping up dur­ing heavy rain events, Stong said. Po­ten­tial costs to fix those ar­eas could cost the city $6.2 mil­lion, so Stong rec­om­mended the city look at how much bond­ing room it has.

Stong re­it­er­ated that any and all dis­cus­sions of fee hikes are in very early stages and won’t be im­ple­mented un­til the city de­cides how it wants to roll them out. But cus­tomers could play a big­ger part in the fund­ing process be­cause of it.

“Cus­tomers need to pay their fair share of these fixes, so what­ever part of the prob­lem you are, is what you’ll pay,” Stong said.

Michelle L. Quinn is a free­lance reporter for the PostTri­bune.

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