Crown Point council discusses utilities upgrade, master plans
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.