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South Whitley residents looking at 44% sewer rate increase

From the Tribune-News

With timeline restrictions looming, South Whitley town council members John Dunn and Joan Eberhart voted to pass a bond ordinance to get set for funding Phase II of the sanitary sewer upgrade project.  The third council member, Tonya Warner, was absent.
Phase II of the project includes many improvements at the wastewater treatment plant.  The town applied for and received a $600,000 grant to be applied to the 3.5 million dollar project.  Jeff Rowe from the accounting firm of Umbaugh and Associates went over the projected rate impact calculations before the vote.  The study showed that a 44 percent increase in sewer rates will be necessary to help pay for the project.
“Right now, for 4,000 gallon usage, residents pay $36.28,” Rowe said. “With the grant you received, rates will need to rise to $52.38 for the same 4,000 gallons, a 44 percent increase.”
Rowe also noted that rates would have needed to go even higher if no grant money were available.  Utility manager Dennis Eberhart echoed this assessment, noting that the proposed increase is not as high as had been anticipated.  Passage of the bond ordinance allows the town to start arranging bonds to cover the rest of the project’s cost.  Presently, the town qualifies for a low interest rate of 2.74 percent on the bonds.  However, the project needs to be bid by the end of this year to get those low rates.
Town attorney Greg Hockemeyer noted that October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and that the local Domestic Violence Task Force is asking schools and municipalities to participate in a “paint the town purple” awareness effort symbolizing support to end domestic violence.  He also asked the council to authorize spending up to $1800 to hold November’s election.  This was approved.
Clerk-Treasurer Mitch Winger announced two extra meetings: a public hearing on the 2012 budget for October 20 at 6:30 p.m. and an executive session on October 11 to consider town employee wages and benefits.  In advance of this meeting, Winger asked the council to approve a higher wage for new deputy clerk-treasurer Stephanie Cripe.
In August, the council hired Cripe at a salary of $12 per hour ignoring Winger’s request for her salary to be $14.25/hour.
“I would like to see Stephanie at $13 per hour for a probationary period of six months,” Winger said.  “After that I’d like her to be bumped up to $13.50.  I don’t think $12 is fair.  I asked for $14.25 and I’d like to compromise at $13.”
Winger also asked that assistant deputy clerk-treasurer Pam Waller’s salary be moved to $10.50 per hour, up slightly from the $10.25 at which she was hired in August.
“You are getting a bargain, a very good bargain, with those two (Cripe and Waller) at this cost,” Winger added.
Dunn refused to take up the salary issue, saying the council would wait until the October 11 meeting to discuss the matter.


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