Tri Lakes sewer rate increase rescinded

A rate increase for sewer customers in the Tri-Lakes area has been snuffed out, at least for the foreseeable future.On Monday, the Tri-Lakes Regional Sewer District Authority voted unanimously to rescind the bump in sewer bill payments that, for the residents paying the lowest sewer payments, amounted to a more than doubling of their monthly sewer bills.The seven-person board voted unanimously to cancel the ordinance that increased monthly payments by $12.83.Before the hike, Tri-Lakes residents paid sewer bills according to three rate structures.All three rates would have seen the same increase, which was attached to the operation and maintenance portion of their bills.Of the approximately 1,800 Tri-Lakes residents billed by the district, those who have paid their debt service fees up front have the lowest monthly payment of $12.31, paying only for operation and maintenance.Other residents pay rates according to which phase they belong to, with bills including operation and maintenance and debt service, or the paying on bonds issued to finance the phases of the sewer project.The second highest rate is $30.80 with the largest bills going to those who pay $43.35. The rate increase has been under fire by residents who said a bump in their sewer bills is unwanted and unnecessary.In August, a two-man commission was formed to decide the issue, but the two commissioners, Hal Stump of Noble County and Don Amber of Whitley County could not agree on the increase.On Aug. 30 a lawsuit was filed by a group of residents to stop the increase. The group was led by longtime Tri-Lakes resident Steve Heaston.Before the higher rates could be implemented, the district authority voted to rescind the hikes.“It’s a step in the right direction,” Heaston said Thursday.According to District Administra-tor Nel Mann, the rate increases were necessary to offset losses in operation and maintenance revenue.The district has shown losses in 2009 and so far this year and reported for 2009 that 49 percent of the operating expenses goes to paying back the district’s two bonds with the next highest amount — 28 percent, going to maintenance.