ELKHART — Mayor Dick Moore has expressed willingness to drop most of his moratorium on new connections to water and sewer outside of the city — but some folks are not pleased.
Following a new round of negotiations with State Rep. Tim Wesco on Tuesday, April 23, Moore announced he would rescind the city’s temporary policy against new connections, but added that the city would not extend sewer and water lines during the next year while city council awaits a plan developed by a task force.
The move is another attempt by Moore to have Wesco and the legislature drop an amendment that would expand the definition of charges and fees customers outside of the city could appeal to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.
Wesco said he did not immediately agree.
Wesco and Moore were on the verge of an agreement last week, but that fell apart after Moore said the moratorium would remain in place regardless of whether the amendment in the state legislature is dropped.
Wesco had been leaning toward accepting the deal, but pulled back Saturday after Moore announced the moratorium would remain.
Wesco accused the mayor of reneging, but Moore argued the moratorium was never discussed in negotiations last week.
In a statement issued by Moore two weeks ago, he denounced the amendment and announced the moratorium.
According to Wesco, Moore’s new offer includes several details and is dependent upon establishing a broad-based task force that would draft a new policy and send it to city council for approval.
The new policy would go into effect in April 2014.
Moore’s plan includes the following:
Companies where water and sewer lines exist may connect as long as the water main does not have to be extended.
Current water and sewer lines will not be extended during this time.
The 63 companies currently on the compact policy will remain on the 75 percent rate compact policy.
The 75 or so companies that currently have the service but not yet signed on to the current compact would pay a city rate for the next year.
New companies connecting over the next year will be on the current ordinance which includes a phase in that means they would be 25 percent of the compact policy.
Moore, in an email to The Elkhart Truth on Wednesday morning, also left the door open that the city would look at connection requests individually.
“The community can rest assured, that while a moratorium still exists on extending water and sewer mains, any development outside of our city that appears to be a major benefit to the greater Elkhart area will be given thoughtful consideration,” Moore said.
Moore also expressed satisfaction that progress was being made.
“I am pleased that two elected officials with differing viewpoints can dialogue in an effort to resolve their differences. This is what the people are asking for,” Moore said.
Several business representatives expressed dismay that not all businesses would be treated the same during the interim period.
City council member David Henke, who has strongly aligned himself with the business coalition, said he thinks Moore’s partial moratorium and the treatment of companies on the existing compact policy are unfair.
“There must be a more fair, equitable and business-friendly way around this issue,” Henke said. “I am all for protecting the city’s assets, but not at the cost of new business, new jobs, new tax revenues.”
One businessman who asked not to be identified doesn’t like some aspects of the new offer.
“If the mayor and the city can allow the newbies to not pay the compact, then they certainly could extend the same fairness to those companies that have been fleeced by the existing agreement for many years,” he said.
Elkhart County officials have expressed concern over the moratorium, saying it has put several current projects on hold and left economic development plans in question.