Truce called in Elkhart sewer rate battle

A truce has been reached in the bitter battle over sewer rates in Elkhart County.

Elkhart’s mayor, for now, has backed off a plan that would have hiked rates for city sewer customers—that are located outside of the city limits.

The same man who brought the matter to a boil has now agreed to put it on the back burner: Mayor Dick Moore’s moratorium on the imposition of a new rate plan would last about a year.

When the mayor began pushing for a rate hike, some businesses and eventually the Indiana General Assembly fought back.

“Well there are a number of business that, you know, businesses that have been struggling. Continue to struggle. When you look at sewer fees going from $600 a years to $36,000 a year, you know, that’s incredible,” said Ind. Rep. Timothy Wesco, (R) Osceola. “And you look at it from a real estate owner's perspective who is renting to tenants and has to increase his rates by that much; he’s probably going to be losing those tenants and then what do you do with an empty building that you still have these rates on?”

The mayor’s new plan is to appoint a bi-partisan task force that would include city and county government leaders, as well as city and county business owners, to come up with a sewer service payment plan that is deemed fair and equitable. The new payment plan would take effect in April of 2014.

“So I think it’s very important that we get this right and so I appreciate the mayor putting a pause on this,” said Rep. Wesco.

Rep. Wesco said he would request that an amendment he attached to S.B. 385 be removed. That amendment would allow county customers of city sewer service to challenge the rates they are charged through the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

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