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2 Huntertown efforts on utility fail

Rate-change voided, board ordinance does not pass

It was utilities headaches all around for members of the Huntertown Council on Monday.

First a recent council decision regarding a change to utility rates was declared null and then an ordinance to establish a new utilities board failed to pass.

The council had agreed to switch to a metered rate on water utilities, but it was recently discovered that utility customers were not properly notified of the Dec. 4 public hearing.

Huntertown must now conduct another public hearing on Jan. 7, said Council President Jim Fortman.

Although the first meeting was advertised and posted as required by state law, the town failed to notify utility customers who live outside the corporate limits, but within the service area, Fortman said.

“We have to notify those within our service area in writing,” Fortman said. “We were unaware of that.”

A clerk in the town’s utility office caught the error, he said.

The letters will be sent out in plenty of time to notify those residents of the upcoming meeting, Fortman said.

Utility customers now pay a flat rate of $21.25 a month. On the new metered system, residents would be charged for wastewater usage based on water consumption.

Also Monday, Council started the process of creating a new utilities board, but did not get far.

Residents voted in support of a referendum on the spring ballot to create a new board that would have no more than one council member, and then affirmed that vote in November with a ballot question.

The council had hoped to appoint a new utilities service board by the end of the year.

Although the council unanimously agreed to abolish the old utilities board, a consideration to form a new board – which had to be unanimous – died after Council member Pat Freck voted against the measure Monday.

Freck said she wanted more time to seek out interested candidates for the new board, which will consist of only three members.

Fortman said he will appoint two members and the other council members will appoint the third board member.

According to state law, no more than two-thirds of the board can be of the same political party and members must live in the town’s utility service area. That means the council’s representative must be a Democrat, since the two that are expected to be appointed by Fortman are Republicans, Freck said.

One interested candidate claimed to be a registered Democrat, but Allen County Voters Registration would not confirm that, Freck said.

“We need more time,” Freck said.

The council will hold a special meeting Thursday to decide the matter. If they do not find a third candidate by then, that seat will remain open temporarily and two members will be appointed, Freck said.

The special meeting begins at 6 p.m.

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