ELKHART — New sewer rates for Elkhart and a revised payment policy for customers outside of the city were approved Monday by the city council.
However, an effort by Mayor Dick Moore to include an opportunity for nonprofits to seek a discount on compact fees was defeated.
Debate on the proposed discount Moore sought to provide some relief for the RV/MH Hall of Fame became heated and the plan was removed from an ordinance that simplified compact fees paid by customers outside of city limits.
A vote to remove language that would have allowed nonprofits to seek a 50 percent discount on the compact fee passed by a 5-4 vote.
Those voting to remove any chance for discounts included council members David Henke, Kyle Hannon, Brian Thomas, Mary Olson and Tonda Hines. Those voting to retain the discount in the ordinance were Brent Curry, Ron Troyer, Rod Roberson and Dave Osborne.
Moore sought the discount language because he said he thinks the existing fee paid by the hall is too high. He had wanted the council to review requests for nonprofits on an individual basis on whether the entity benefits the entire community.
Theouncil then went on to approve the payment fee plan by a 6-3 vote.
The payment fee eliminate the use of sewer service agreement fees and shift all customers to compact fees.
The payment plan involves a few more than 300 customers, according to the city.
The rate hike was approved by an 8-0 vote while Henke was out of the room.
Two people from the public questioned the need for the rate hike and argued the city does not work hard enough to collect overdue bills and that the money from the rate hike could end up being used for other projects. Council members did not address either issue Monday.
The rate hike will cost the average residential customer $12 more per month when fully implemented over the next three years and is needed to fund the combined sewer overflow project mandated by the federal government — a 25-year project that will eventually cost about $135 million.
Council members had little choice but to approve the rate hike because failure to do so would impede the city’s ability to continue work on the federally mandated sewer work.
Failure to comply with the federal mandate could lead to potentially millions of dollars in fines, officials warned.