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Moore preparing fourth sewer compromise

Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore said he's working on a new compromise in the ongoing sewer dispute.
Posted on Sept. 5, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on Sept. 5, 2013 at 4:39 p.m.

ELKHART — Mayor Dick Moore has informed city council members that he’ll soon release details of a new compromise effort aimed at ending the commercial sewer dispute for customers outside of the city.

Moore said his plan will be ready for the Sept. 23 meeting, but told council members in an email that he hopes to release some basic points before the meeting.

The upcoming proposal is another attempt by Moore to find common ground with the council over an issue that has simmered for more than nine months.

“This will be the fourth time that I and my staff have attempted to offer a compromise that will benefit the companies on our perimeter who are connected to our system and yet protect the treasury belonging to the people in our city,” Moore told council members.

The dispute boils down to how commercial customers outside of the city should be charged for sewer service.

Moore has stuck with a formula that relies on assessed property value to calculate monthly charges. Republicans want to switch to a surcharge based on usage.

Businesses outside of the city began complaining in December after council passed an ordinance sought by Moore that shifts 75 companies to compact fees that are based on assessed value.

On March 4, council approved a phase-in sought by Moore, but let it be known that it merited a temporary solution at best.

On March 22, Moore offered to cut the formula from 75 percent assessed value to 50 percent of assessed value.

Still facing a stalemate, Moore organized a task force and used its recommendations to tout a plan that would reduce the assessed value calculation to 35 percent, thereby cutting bills in half. That plan was unveiled in early June.

On Aug. 8, council rejected Moore’s 35 percent plan and adopted a Republican proposal based on a surcharge.

Moore and his legal staff claimed the Republican plan authored by David Henke would not stand up to a legal challenge and haggled with the council over where Republicans obtained legal advice in creating the ordinance.

Republicans, angered that they could not access city-paid legal advice to help craft the ordinance, declined to identify the name of the attorney who prepared the ordinance.

Moore vetoed Henke’s ordinance on Aug. 16. An attempt to override the veto a few days later failed.

Moore and council members are in general agreement that the city needs to begin annexing many of the properties that receive sewer service. However, Republicans want to annex residential and commercial areas while Moore prefers to concentrate on commercial land.

The council will meet for a regular session Monday, Sept. 9, then has three consecutive nights of budget sessions scheduled beginning Sept. 17.


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