The Board would like to help address any concerns you may have about our recent and for most all of us the first ever rate change and the reasons behind it, and to let you know what we have been doing and where we are going. Near the end is some info on our programs that could save you a significant ammount of money if you have problems with your home sewer. Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this, it is a little lengthy but very informative. If you have any questions please call the office, 769-3996, or the Chairman, Jim Beshears, direct at 616-6599.
First a little history about how we got to the point we are at now. The original IHCD was formed in the 60's by Mrs. Lucille Parker, Mrs. Eolis Jones, and developers, particularly those from the Savannah Ridge subdivision. For a few years residents paid sewer taxes without actually having any sewers while the engineering and installation of the original system was completed. IHCD at the time was primarily anything from Merrillville road to the west border of what would be the Town of Merrillville south of Route 30, and the land involved with the subdivisions of Independence Hill and Savannah Ridge south of 73rd Avenue. IHCD sewage flowed to Merrillville Conservanct District and from there to the Gary sewage plant, as it does today. Existing residents on septic tanks disconnected and hooked their homes up to the new system.
Also in the 60's and beyond, the subdivisions in the Lincoln area; Lincoln Gardens, Young America, Southbrook, and Crescent Lake were built, along with the Broadmoor Apartments, and a private sewer company was formed to provide sewer and drinking water services called Lincoln Utilities. Their users were connected to a small sewage treatment plant at Taney and 73rd that was originally designed to handle the flow from Lincoln Gardens, not to handle all the sewage that it was eventually required to treat, and the treated water from the plant went to Kaiser Ditch. Homes in the older subdivisions here were built using in some cases sewer pipes made from orange peels and oil, something called "orangeberg" and were pretty much doomed to fail from day one.
As you can see, at that time there were two sewer "districts"; one privately owned called Lincoln Utilities, and the other, IHCD, owned by property owners. Around 20 years ago, the owner of Lincoln Utilities was served a consent decree from one of our governing agencies, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). It called for Lincoln Utilities to repair their system that they had let deteriorate to the point that it was practically unusable when it rained or we had a large snow melt. If you lived here at that time you rememeber it was horrible; basement floods, sewage in the streets and parks, and the treatment plant overflowing into Kaiser Ditch. Lincoln's agreement with IDEM finally was that they would remove the treatment plant, install a lift station to pump all the plant's sewage to IHCD, build an overflow retention pond, and repair a small percentage of the pipes in the ground. The owners decided to get out of the sewage treatment business, and the Lincoln area was annexed by IHCD and became a large part of what the IHCD is today. The Lincoln area people were required to pay a $21.74 per month rate to cover all the repairs and improvements necessary to fulfill the objectives of the IDEM consent decree, even though fulfilling the decree wouldn't have fixed all the problems.
Since the beginning of the original IHCD system, homeowners have paid an $11.00 per month flat rate, and for the last nearly 20 years the Lincoln Utilities side of IHCD stayed at $21.74. I don't know of any utility you may have, whether it be sewer, electricity, garbage disposal, water, telephone, whatever, that has not had a price increase in over 45 years for IHCD, and 20 for Lincoln. The Boards of IHCD since the Lincoln annexation kept these rates in place for a few reasons, primarily that there were costs involved in repairing the Lincoln system to satisfy IDEM, more repairs were required above and beyond what was required by the consent decree, and the amount of sewage coming from the Lincoln area was much more than the IHCD area, especially after it rained. Over the last 5 years, the Board has completed projects for further repairs so that there is no longer any damaged or deteriorated piping in the Lincoln system.
Over the years the IHCD side of the District has grown, and the flow from the IHCD area is nearly equal to the Lincoln area. In 2013, the Board performed a study and decided that the residents in the Lincoln area had paid for their improvements. There were a few rate plans we investigated switching to, what their costs to implement and maintain monthly would be, and we decided that equalizing all homeowners rates across the District was the most cost effective, fair, and equitable method of billing. The changes were done in two phases to help relieve some of the sticker shock. In the beginning of 2014 the Lincoln area rates were lowered while the IHCD areas increased, and again in 2015 the Lincoln area was reduced and the IHCD area increased. The rate you pay now, starting in January 2015 is the same for everyone and will be what you will pay for the foreseeable future. The Board has no plans or needs to revisit this and change it as we did in 2013. We have some of the lowest residential rates in the State, and again, what have you been involved in where you haven't seen a price increase or decrease for that matter in over 20 years?
IHCD is in excellent financial shape. Our latest large improvement project, the Taft Street interceptor, is scheduled for completion in the spring and is fully funded. This project will allow full development of IHCD without having to pay for extremely expensive capacity increases in the future. We currently enjoy the best working relationship with MCD since IHCD was formed, and our offering of plans, services, and programs for homeowners are among the best in the State. We meticulously maintain our system for the health and safety of our residents and businesses.
We still have work to do. In 2015, you will be asked to participate in our Clearwater Elimination Program. Clearwater, or clean water that enters the sewage system through connected sump pumps, roof drains, collapsed or leaking home sewers, and any other source, will be our next target for improving the system. Please look through the website for more information on these programs.
Finally, if you have a HOME sewer backup (not a sink or fixture) you can’t clear yourself, we ask that you call us first on our 24 hour line 769-3996, before calling a plumber. As a homeowner in the IHCD, you are eligible to have your home sewer line evaluated at no cost. Our maintenance techs will come to your home and determine whether it is the main line or your home line. If you do need to call out a plumber to have your line rodded out our techs will let you know. If after clearing your line you have issues such as collapse or severe damage, IHCD has no out of pocket cost programs available to you to have your line repaired or replaced. We have had residents paying huge costs to have work done that is covered under an IHCD program, PLEASE call us first to avoid that!
The Board members and most of our 5 dedicated employees live in the district, we are your neighbors. Our goal at IHCD is to provide you with safe and dependable transportation of sewage from your home, and the peace of mind that comes with knowing your system is well maintained. We also want you to know if you do have a problem we are here to help you correct it as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Please take a minute to browse through the website, we thank you for your support over the years as we have been improving the system for you.