CHICAGO HEIGHTS | Mayor David Gonzalez said Monday the city likely will raise water rates next month both to provide funds for infrastructure work and to provide sufficient funds in case the courts decide the proposed water rate increase by Hammond is just.
Chicago Heights receives its water from Hammond and is in discussions with the Indiana city regarding its contract.
Corporation Counsel T.J. Somer updated the City Council on Monday regarding a hearing he attended earlier in the day in Indianapolis before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.
The case before the commission is one of two lawsuits Chicago Heights has filed against the city of Hammond over the inability to come to an agreement on a new contract for Hammond to continue providing water to Chicago Heights.
"The issue at hand (Monday) was Hammond's motion to dismiss our complaint before the Utility Commission, claiming that they lacked the jurisdiction to impose rate regulation over the (city) of Hammond, claiming that Hammond wasn't a utility," Somer said.
After two hours of argument and testimony, the commission decided to take the ruling under consideration, according to Somer.
"They essentially promised us that they would have a decision back on the jurisdictional argument by the first of the year," Somer said.
Gonzalez said the city does not believe Hammond's plan to raise the cost of water for Chicago Heights from 57 cents to $2.20 per 1,000 gallons is fair.
"Right now, Lansing is paying $1.10 for the same water," Gonzalez said. "It's from the same treatment facility. Why should they pay $1.10 and we pay $2.20?"
The City Council on Monday also approved an ordinance that decreases the time period that must pass before the city can send a delinquent water bill to collections.
"It's actually going to shorten that time period from what is now 70 days to 40 days," Somer said.
In other city news, Treasurer James Dee presented an estimated 2012 tax levy that, while subject to change, is expected to be approved by the City Council at its Dec. 17 meeting.
"We're proposing in this draft an increase of 1.5 percent to the overall levy," Dee said.
That increase would represent the same amount of increase approved for the 2011 tax levy.
Dee said a 1.5 percent increase would result in a homeowner paying about $20 more in property taxes on a house with an assessed evaluation of $100,000.