September 20, 2014 – Rob Earnshaw
The monthly storm-sewer fee may be taken off the water bill for residents and businesses and moved to the tax bill — witCharge might move from water bill to tax billh a big increase — if the Hammond City Council approves an ordinance later this month.
The $12 annual fee for households would increase to $60 that would be paid twice a year through the homeowners’ tax bills. Businesses and commercial users would pay according to land use code as determined by Lake County for tax purposes.
Hammond Sanitary District officials said the least households would pay is about $5 a month, while heavy industry could pay up to $35 a month. Some commercial businesses may pay two times that amount. There would be about eight classes of fees depending on the land use code. Nonprofits are exempt.
Marty Wielgos, Hammond Sanitary District manager, said the change, if approved by the council, would make Hammond comparable to other communities in Lake County that have switched stormwater fees from the water bill to the tax bill.
Officials have said the move helps as a revenue collector for the stormwater departments, which were all mandated by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to manage the quality of stormwater.
The federal government already forced the city’s sanitary district into entering an agreement that will cost $50 million to $60 million to build a retention tank along with other improvements to its system, Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said.
“That’s just the beginning,” he said.
McDermott said Hammond has among the lowest water and sanitary rates in the state, and “the federal government is determined to change that.”
The sanitary district also is in litigation with the Environmental Protection Agency and IDEM regarding about $250 million in Little Calumet River improvements. Hammond’s fight with the EPA and IDEM has been going on since 1999.
McDermott said Hammond’s litigation is “a big time case,” and they’re hoping if successful will reduce the cost to $100 million.
“Keep in mind the federal government is requiring a lot of things on the sanitary district now,” he said.