Hammond water bills to increase 32 percent
The Hammond Village Board voted to increase the water portion of the utility bill by 32 percent at a rate of return to the village of 5.25 percent at the regular board meeting Monday, Nov. 11.
The water part of utility bills will go up roughly $2.68 per 1,000 gallons used, said Trustee Lynn Pabst. This is an increase of 91 cents per 1,000 gallons. The sewer and fire protection portions of the bill will not increase.
According to Pabst, for a family of four, the average water portion of the bill will increase roughly $10 per bill.
Tom Kortas, who was there to speak about the water increase from the Public Service Commission, said raising the rate will allow the village to set aside money for projects such as the water tower maintenance contract, completing upper Davis Street and the upcoming servicing of one of the wells, which could cost around $25,000.
“The purpose of the rate increase is to get the water utility on solid financial footing,” Kortas said.
The driving force behind the water rate increase was the water tower maintenance that occurred recently, Pabst said.
The village could have increased the rate by less, but decided it was wise to increase it by 32 percent now rather than come back in a year and increase it again.
The 5.25 percent rate of return is the amount of money the village will be able to set aside for upcoming projects, increased operating costs, or if something should go wrong unexpectedly, like a water main break. Kortas said this increase will allow the village to set aside $80,000 in one year.
Trustee Mark Benton said he suspects a water main has already broken outside of Foster Hall and needs to be looked at.
Benton also asked if a chlorine capability should be added to Well 2. Everyone agreed that should be considered in the future as well.
Pabst asked Kortas if there’s any way to raise the penalty people have to pay on late water bills. According to Pabst, delinquent bills are a problem in the village, and the 1 percent late fee doesn’t even cover the cost of extra stamps to send notices.
While Kortas agreed 1 percent is not enough, he said PSC sets the rates.
Village Engineer Greg Adams of Ayres Associates revisited the possibility of the village vacating Bushnell, Muldoon and Belshazzar Streets, and a portion of Third Street.
Bushnell, Muldoon and Belshazzar are short, dead-end streets south of the railroad tracks near the water treatment plant. When the railroad came through in the last century, changes were made to the streets, resulting in today’s confusion. The short stretch of Third Street that’s in question is near the cemetery and leads up to Louis Frank’s garage.
Plat maps of the area throughout the years sometimes leave out Muldoon Street, which runs parallel to the railroad tracks, and make it part of Bushnell Street.
If the board chooses to vacate these streets, they would stop maintaining and plowing them.
Adams said the village does not plow that small part of Third Street, though it has been asked to. The sewer and water lines were also abandoned long ago.
Adams said in the case of Third Street, the property owners, like Frank and Michael and Phyllis John, whose address is Clark Street though their property borders Third, would have to be contacted and a public hearing held before the village could vacate it.
Board members also agreed factoring in the safe routes to school sidewalk program should be considered, because children walk through the neighborhood to school.
The board authorized Adams to find out the possible costs for surveying and widening Muldoon and Bushnell Streets. Muldoon Street, which is almost more of an alley, was cut in half when the railroad came in.
“I wouldn’t like it if they were going to vacate the street in front of my house,” Board President Tony Bibeau said.
Residents Carl and Mary Hemenway, who own property along those three streets, said they would have no problem deeding the property needed to the Village to improve those streets, allowing for emergency vehicles to have a place to turn around and access the four property owners there.
Juel Pettis, whose home is accessed off Bushnell Street, said he has never understood why the post office gave him an address on Thayer Street.
Benton said he believes it’s in the best interest of the village to own and maintain those streets, especially if West Street is ever extended north to them.
Village Attorney Tim Scott said the village should be clear what it’s taking over if the Hemenway’s deed property to it, because it’s not wise to have substandard lots if there are no plans for them. He also said creating substandard lots could go against village ordinances.
Pabst wanted people to know that even if the board decides to keep these streets, changes to them could possibly change people’s addresses.
Adams will come back to the board with estimates for improving the streets before a decision is made.
--The board approved a contract with Cross Connections in the amount of $4,992 a year to inspect backflow preventers on commercial businesses. The board will look into requiring homeowners to install them on their outside spigots as well.
--The board approved up to $15,000 for a new furnace for the sewer treatment plant.
--Proposed procedural changes for the village employees concerning expense reimbursements and funds requests were proposed. Scott will work with Trustee Laurie Gruber to finalize the language.
--JJ’s Sports Bar & Grill reported to the board they ordered a bigger dumpster to alleviate the problem of trash overflowing onto the ground. The new dumpster was set to arrive Nov. 13.
--Angie Blodgett was appointed Deputy Clerk/Treasurer.
--A special meeting and public hearing is set for 6 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 19, to discuss the 2014 budget.