CHURUBUSCO — Blue Lake residents spoke out at Churubusco’s Town Council meeting last week, frustrated with a suggested 100% increase to their sewer bills — raising it to $136 per month.
The Churubusco Town Council is considering adopting an ordinance that would double the bill for Blue Lake residents and increase town residents’ bills by 1%.
Additionally, with the ordinance, residents would see an increase in stormwater fees from $2 monthly to $5.
Council President Mark Pepple responded to the public’s pushback.
“We haven’t raised Blue Lake to keep up with where everyone else is,” Pepple said. “We’re charging Blue Lake 70% of our rate. We still have to pay to take care of all of this — treat it. We believe we’re losing money on sewage coming from Blue Lake. This sounds harsh, we want you to be our customers, but at the end of the day, we can’t put Blue Lake on the backs of Churubusco residents to do that. They have to be able to pay their way.”
Blue Lake representatives in attendance asked for a less drastic increase, such as the 1% increase given to town residents, stating that the town is going to “gouge us to cover your own costs.”
“You’re still paying under what the citizens of Churubusco pay. The reason people pay what they do is so we can make improvements to the plant, so we can treat that wastewater. It’s not cheap. We’re not gouging you. We’re losing money. We have to figure out how to make this work.”
The Blue Lake residents alluded to the potential for other options for sewage management, rather than working with the town.
“If you believe that other option is better for Blue Lake, I understand that,” Pepple said. “You’re way below what you should be paying, and that’s not this council’s fault. You should have been at this rate a long time ago. We have to make the sewer plant solvent.”
The Town Council is planning a public hearing to discuss the new proposed rates for July 3.
“My suggestion is to bring Blue Lake citizens to talk about it,” Pepple said.
The council will likely take a vote on the rate changes at the July 3 meeting as well, Pepple said.
Bids rejected for sewer extension line
Also at Wednesday’s Town Council meeting, the council rejected bids that “came in significantly higher than expected,” Pepple said.
The council put out a request for bids to extend the town’s sewer line under U.S. 33 south of Churubusco, near C.R. 375N, on an emergency basis to assist residents in that area.
The lowest bid was $149,000 and the highest was more than $190,000.
A consultant was present at Wednesday’s meeting, and told the council that the price was likely so high due to contractors being busy and the need for this project to be pushed ahead.
Some residents south of Churubusco are struggling with septic system failure and were not able to live in their homes for some time due to sewage in their homes. Residents approached the council in previous meetings, seeking the possibility of joining the town’s sewer system rather than replacing a septic tank.
After deciding to expand its sewage service to areas south of Churubusco, the town agreed it would look into installing the sewer main itself, since it would need to be installed for the new customers anyway. However, after bids came in, the council decided to hold off on the project.
“I think it’s evident we don’t have the funds to complete this right now,” Pepple said. “My opinion is to reject the bids and keep moving forward the way we are.”
His fellow councilmen agreed, and the bids were rejected. Now, residents will need to pay their own costs of boring under U.S. 33 to connect, which is about $10,000-$12,000.
Bob Gray, Churubusco wastewater superintendent, said the cost to put in a new septic system is well over that cost — more than $20,000.
Also at the council meeting, Pepple discussed a contract with Busco Connect, a potential new internet provider in Churubusco.
The town is working with the company, headed by MapleNet, to bring the service to town. Town councilmen said it is possible that the service could be provided as soon as the beginning of the school year in August.
Representatives from Busco Connect will be present in the merchant tent at Turtle Days for more information.
“Tell them how much they like internet service in Churubusco right now,” Pepple said.