ELKHART — Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore heard a barrage of complaints about the new compact agreement and his proposed compromise for commercial sewer customers located outside of the city on Monday, March 4.
Despite what appeared to be an overwhelming lack of support for the compromise, though, the Elkhart City Council passed it and promised to soon revisit the entire compact agreement issue.
Even though numerous other commercial customers have been paying for sewer service under a compact agreement based on assessed property values, Moore continues to face an uproar as the city shifts dozens of commercial customers from sewer service agreements to the much more expensive compact agreements.
The council agreed to the compromise phase-in of the compact plan, knowing if it tabled or killed the proposal, commercial customers would immediately feel the full brunt of the new sewer charges, which range from a 500-percent hike for some to a 1,200-percent hike for at least one customer.
The compromise passed 9-0, but only after council president Ron Troyer pledged to assemble a committee that would seek a new solution with input from the administration, council and business owners.
Moore, who offered the compromise phase-in after hearing complaints from businesses, was asked pointedly Monday if his administration will work to find a new solution, but said he was not prepared to make such a commitment.
Ultimately, the council could seek to rewrite the sewer ordinance it passed last year — a plan some now readily admit was approved without sufficient scrutiny.
Moore urged the council to pass the compromise and warned that customers who fail to comply with the new ordinance could see service cut off.
If Moore was counting on strong support from his Democrat colleagues on the council for the compromise, he didn’t get it. Republicans expressly opposed the current compact concept while several Democrats said the compact formula appeared to be unfair.
Commercial customers weren’t as diplomatic and blasted it, calling it unfair, unjust and taxation without representation.
Council members Brian Dickerson, David Henke and Mary Olson warned that the compact agreement could be a “job killer.”
Under the compromise, customers would pay one-third of the total fee in 2013, two-thirds of the charges in 2014 and face the full charges beginning in 2015.
While some business owners left the meeting with a sense of hope, businessman Rocky Enfield remained upset.
“For the mayor to sit up there and make veiled threats about turning off our services — if he turns off services, he’s going to lose money ... plus he’s going to have a public relations nightmare,” Enfield said.