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Expect a Larger Water Bill Soon, Chicago Heights

The cost could go up as soon as next month to make up for an increase in Hammond's water rates.

Chicago Heights will likely raise water rates next month to bring in funds in case the courts side with Hammond's proposed water rate increase. Mayor David Gonzalez said the increased rates would also pay for infrastructure work.

The Heights has been in negotiations with Hammond since before the last 30-year water contract expired on Nov. 12. In the new contract, Hammond has proposed a rate increase from 57 cents per 1000 gallons to $2.20 per 1000 gallons. The Height is fighting the rate in federal and state courts. 

The cities had a hearing in front of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission last Monday. Hammond moved to dismiss the Heights' complaint there, according to Corporation Counsel T.J. Somer. Hammond said the commission does not have the jurisdiction to regulate the City's rates because Hammond is not a utility.

The commission decided to take Hammond's argument into consideration, Somer said.

"They essentially promised us that they would have a decision back on the jurisdictional argument by the first of the year," Somer told Northwest Indiana Times reporter Paul Czpakowicz.

Mayor David Gonzalez has questioned Hammond's motives, pointing out that Lansing pays exactly half of the proposed rate for Chicago Heights.

Follow the Heights-Hammond water dispute:

  • City Hits Impasse In Hammond Water Negotiations
  • Heights Car Wash Owner: New Water Rates 'Would Put Us Out'
  • The Thing About Water: Heights vs. Hammond

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Denice November 26, 2012 at 07:03 PM
What the heck? In the August 8th interview entitled :Minutes with the Mayor: All Those Charges on Your Water Bill http://chicagoheights.patch.com/articles/minutes-with-the-mayor-all-those-charges-on-your-water-bill, the mayor clearly states that the Community Service Fee "goes back into the general fund" to cover short falls in revenue. Doesn't this situation fall into that category? Also, why can't the mayor wait until the courts make a decision BEFORE increasing the water bill? I'm all for being proactive but in this case I think the mayor should await the courts decision and then react accordingly. What if the courts sides with the mayor and water rates only increase slightly? Finally, the mayor needs to explain just what infrastructure work the city plans on doing in the WINTER? If they start digging on my block one of the many dead trees the city has neglected to remove is liable to fall on someone's home. I'm still waiting on the city to pick up the many piles of dead branches me and my neighbors have piled at the curbside over the past 2 weeks. Tossing the word infrastucture around does not excuse the mayor for increasing water bills prematurely and not using the surplus funds in the Community Service fees.
jason amos November 26, 2012 at 07:23 PM
What surplus funds! There is nothing,try to get s Foia request of the cities budget it is 80 petcent into one fund ,not split up Example 50000 gor trees 100000 for roads T
Winston Wolf November 26, 2012 at 08:56 PM
How is anyone supposed to take you seriously when you write the way you do? It's unreadable.
NoOne Needs to Know November 26, 2012 at 10:51 PM
@Denice, don't worry about any water bill increase, according to the letter the Mayor sent out a couple of weeks ago explaining the litigation surrounding the water rates and championing the electric aggregate, "the good news" is your savings on the electric bill will help with the increase on your water bill. It was a crock and please DO note my sarcasm. There is NO proof that electric aggregates actually save the end consumer money. http://www.citizensutilityboard.org/ciElectric_cubfacts_communityaggregation.html
sandra November 27, 2012 at 08:09 PM
I too, would love to know what "infrastructure" is! And who's infrastructure? Hammond or Chicago Heights? We now need to redo with the same water????? Hammond is not a utility??? Maybe someone should read Websters for a definition of "utility"?????? Maybe people in Chicago heights can pay their water bill.... but what about Ford Heights and everyone else we sell water to? How many people do not pay their water bills? I see lots of shutoffs in the future and then more foreclosures , and then more vacant houses and businesses. Someone try to explain this to me as tho I were a three year old?
sandra November 27, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Right on!! We pay way too much already for nothing. Money going into things we do not need? Like that park by the library? Usually empty when I drive by. When my water bill goes up x 4, it's time to move on.
NoOne Needs to Know November 28, 2012 at 06:57 PM
I read an article in the Southtown Star yesterday regarding this water cost issue. Currently, Chicago Heights residents are paying over $3 per 1,000 gallons of water for which Chicago Heights pays $0.57 to the City of Hammond. My question is if Chicago Heights is charging $2.43+ more per 1,000 gallons of water, what are they doing with the surplus? Shouldn't this amount be used to cover the infrastructure? What about the community service fee? The part of the story that really got my dander up was the Mayor's comment to the Hammond's mayor's remark about price gouging: “That’s not true,” Gonzalez said. “We do charge more than $3 per 1,000 gallons for the water, but that covers the cost of the distribution system, repairing water mains, electricity to run the pumps, the crews to maintain the pumps." So again, why are we paying a community service fee and (soon) a higher price for water? Oh, and I hear a property tax increase is on the table, too. After he said last year, we shouldn't need to raise taxes again. I hope all you Unity people are happy with your choice. http://southtownstar.suntimes.com/news/16255005-452/kadner-water-better-than-slots-for-cash-in-hammond-mayors-eyes.html
Annonymous November 29, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Actually I find the Hammond mayor's comments in the Southtown Star article above pretty compelling. Let us review-- Indiana is booming because its tax rates are lower and business policies friendlier to the people who provide jobs than the adjacent municipalities in Illinois. Now Hammond intends to further their advantage by increasing the water rate. Not friendly but at least it shows that the mayor of Hammond understands that municipalities are in a competitive environment for employers and residents and that one should, insofar as possible, attempt to attract those who pay the bills for city government by delivering a competitive product at a lower price. So the municipality which already has a high tax rate and difficult-for-business environment responds by INCREASING the water rate IN ADVANCE of the actual new rate going into effect. Thereby giving Hammond exactly the competitive advantage they attempted to achieve. No talk of tightening the Chicago Heights belt. No discussion of cutting back on Chicago Heights employees. No, suddenly we need to "improve the infrastructure". As long as we are talking about being pro-active maybe we should ask why this is getting done at the last minute. So 30 years ago CH signed a fixed-rate contract with Hammond. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that at the end of the 30 years rates are going to increase-- probably substantially. But do we spend any part of that 30 years thinking of an alternative? Nope.
Annonymous November 29, 2012 at 02:22 PM
We could, for example, have bit the bullet, put in another pipeline to Chicago and been in an environment where we could have had the two major suppliers in a position where they would have to bid against each other for the contract. Yes that would have required the expenditure of millions of dollars to create a redundant system. But instead we wait to the last minute and then complain that going to another supplier will take 5 years to dig a pipeline. Or we could have negotiated an agreement with Hammond 10 years ago when there was plenty of time to dig that pipeline if talks fell through. Face it-- a sole supplier of an essential product has considerable leverage when it comes to pricing. If you don't want to be jacked up you need to establish an alternative supplier. You'd think somebody at City Hall would notice that in advance.
NoOne Needs to Know November 30, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Annonymous, you are making the assumption that anybody at City Hall cares how much we have to pay for the water. The end consumer is already paying at least 5 times what the city pays, what have they been doing with all the overage for the past 30 years? Wouldn't that be enough to pay for infrastructure, et. al.? One would think, but as usual, it rob Peter to pay Paul. Everything at City Hall is reactive when is should be PROACTIVE, something none of them know anything about.
sandra December 02, 2012 at 12:37 AM
My sister, who is a senior, lives in Chicago. Her water bill is $120 every six months. She shares her home with three other adults..... showers, laundry, dish washing etc. She gets a senior break, in Chicago, no sewage charges!... And this brings her monthly bill to about $20 a month!!! Who says it's going to cost more to live in Chicago????? Her property values have increased, even with the economy.... What you got to say about that Chicago Heights??????????? I AM A SENIOR ALSO AND MY BILLS ARE RUNNING $120 Q TWO MONTHS, EVEN THO MY SON HAS MOVED OUT AND I AM ALONE!!!! FIGURE THAT OUT!!! Someone is being duped here... not sure who.

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