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Huntertown council taps new leader

Huntertown council members chose a new president to lead them through the labyrinth of local government during the coming year.

Council member Sue Gongwer was unanimously elected Monday and will replace Jim Fortman, who had been president for the past two years.

Gongwer is serving her second term and also served as president in 2007 and 2009.

Gongwer’s first order of business was to conduct a second public hearing and call for a decision on changing the town’s sewer rates.

The council had agreed to switch to a metered rate and held a public hearing in early December, but it discovered that utility customers were not properly notified and therefore the meeting was not valid.

In a repeat of the first hearing, all five council members agreed it was necessary to move utility customers from a flat rate to a metered rate, based on water consumption.

Fort Wayne City Utilities has provided the town with sewer service since 1988. The council included a provision that allows rate increases from City Utilities to be passed on to Huntertown utility customers.

For years, the town has absorbed the increases, but it has caught up with them, Fortman said. “This (ordinance) is just to recoup what we have lost over the years,” he said.

Currently, customers are charged a flat rate of $21.25 a month. The typical household using about 5,000 gallons of water a month would pay $34.80 for sewage with the new rates, which are to take effect immediately.

Low-end users who use the minimum of 2,000 gallons of water or less would pay about $21.60 a month, and those using 10,000 gallons a month would pay $56.80 a month.

Local resident George Nicholas said that, based on his calculations, his utility bill would be 53 percent higher with the new rates.

Fortman said he does not know what will happen in April when the town’s contract with City Utilities expires.

Fortman said the new rates do not figure in the expenses of any projects currently under construction, such as the new $1.8 million drinking water filtration plant at Carroll and Lima roads, which is part of a larger $4.5 million water project.

A proposed $11.2 million wastewater treatment plant, if the town gets the go-ahead to build it from the Department of Environmental Management, is also not factored in.

IDEM denied the permit request in October, but Huntertown has appealed that decision.

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