Portage council reviews proposed commercial sewer rate increases

2013-05-08T00:00:00Z Portage council reviews proposed commercial sewer rate increasesJoyce Russell joyce.russell@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2222 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | The Portage City Council on Tuesday reviewed a proposed sewer rate increase for commercial properties, asking for clarifications.

No action was taken, however, as a public hearing must be held on the proposed increases.

The Utility Services Board has proposed increasing sewer rates for commercial customers, many of whom are now paying a base rate of about $44 per month.

Councilman Ted Uzelac said he had a couple of issues, including why the council had to take action as the utility board is an independent agency of the city and how commercial properties are being identified.

Utility Services Board member Andre Joseph said the City Council acts like a utility regulatory agency in this case and must approve the proposed rate hikes.

Both he and Utility Services Department Secretary-Treasurer Sherry Smolar explained the need for the increase.

They told the council that at some point the ordinance had been changed, allowing commercial properties to pay either the flat rate or a metered rate. Many, including large users, chose the flat rate. That has, they said, caused a decrease in revenue for the department.

"There is a lack of revenues being received versus what is being provided," Joseph said.

The new ordinance would require billing on a metered rate for commercial properties. Some businesses could see their sewer rates double, triple or more.

"Some will pay the same, some will pay a lot more," said Smolar, adding the proposed increase will bring an estimated additional $737,000 in annual revenue to the department. A rate study completed earlier this year indicated the department needs to increase revenue to raise debt service coverage ratios and increase funds for sewer maintenance.

Smolar said Portage has an agreement with Indiana American Water to provide meter information.

In addition, the ordinance will increase rates for apartments and mobile homes to the same level as single-family homes.

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