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Elkhart officials accept lone bid from firm that cuts sewer connections, but no disconnections planned

Elkhart officials have accepted the lone bid for service to sever connections of sewer clients who don’t comply with pertinent city rules.

Posted on Jan. 23, 2014 at 11:27 a.m.

ELKHART — Elkhart officials have formally accepted the lone bid for service to sever connections of sewer clients who don’t comply with pertinent city rules and guidelines.

That doesn’t mean a spate of disconnections is immediately in the offing. It just means the city has “another tool” to handle disconnections if need be, said Mike Machlan, the Elkhart city engineer and head of the Elkhart Board of Public Works.

City officials warned last March that they would cut the sewer service of residential customers living outside Elkhart’s municipal limits who wouldn’t sign on to a rate plan approved a few months earlier. Some clamored that the rates were too high.

Since then, the city has lowered the rates for such customers, but as of last month a handful of customers still hadn’t formally agreed to the new terms. Partially in reaction to that, the Elkhart Board of Public Works last month sought bids from firms that can handle disconnections via a no-dig method.

Culy Contracting of Windsor was the only firm to offer a bid, and on Tuesday, Jan. 21, the board accepted its proposal. The firm would charge $15,650 to cut the service of every six clients using the no-dig technique.

NO NEW ULTIMATUMS

When the issue came to a head last March, city officials seemed on the verge of cutting service to holdout customers, but Elkhart County officials wouldn’t provide the needed excavation permits, worried that halting sewer service would pose a health hazard. The city had warned that it would dig down to the sewer lines of holdout customers and physically sever the connections.

Via the no-dig method, crews send robots down a manhole into the sewer system and the machines travel to the lateral sewer connections of holdout customers, installing blocking devices. Thus, there is no need to dig and no need for excavation permits.

Machlan said Monday that he didn’t know how many holdouts remain, and he reported no new ultimatums to deal with any customers who still haven’t agreed to the latest rate plan. With the Culy proposal, the city would be able to handle disconnections with a week’s notice.

Sewer customers outside Elkhart pay more than those inside the city, a point of contention for some. A new rate agreement approved Nov. 18 after months of back and forth requires residential customers outside Elkhart to pay a flat $35 fee on top of their normal sewer bill, down from $50 outlined in the previous ordinance.

Follow reporter Tim Vandenack on Twitter at @timvandenack.




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