The public question appearing on Huntertown residents ballots is confusing. Most perplexing is why a majority of the towns council members ignored the will of the constituents theyve sworn to represent by petitioning to have the question placed on the ballot at all.
And it is counterintuitive that voting yes will actually eliminate the independent utility board – the board voters just approved in a May referendum. To keep the board, voters need to vote no.
Voters should vote no to abolishing the Utility Service Board. The voter-requested utility board would provide some much-needed objective oversight of utility services at a time when the town has several expensive and environmentally significant projects in the works.
Another confusing element to the Huntertown utility board saga is that the board in question on the ballot does not yet exist. Council leaders have failed to act to create the utility board that the voters asked for in May.
The May referendum passed 371-177 to create an independent utility board that would include a professional engineer and only one council member.
However, Huntertown utilities are still being managed by a utility board made up of the five members of the town council. The council created that board in 2011 shortly after Dave Rudolph won a contentious election for clerk-treasurer. The change meant that city employees report directly to the council rather than the clerk-treasurer. The council actions suggest it made the change not to improve oversight of utilities but rather as a vendetta.
The town is constructing a new $1.8 million drinking water filtration plant on Carroll Road that is part of a larger $4.5 million project to improve the towns water system.
Huntertown officials are also working to end a contract with Fort Wayne City Utilities for sewer service and want to build their own $11.2 million wastewater treatment plant. Although, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management found several problems with the proposed plan and has preliminarily rejected the plan.
Last week, residents heard the initial results of a sewer rate study by H.J. Umbaugh and Associates that show the town has about a yearly deficit of about $286,000 for sewer service costs. Residents likely face an unpleasant increase in sewer rates whether or not the new sewer plant ever gets built.
Voters have approved – and would clearly benefit from – an independent board providing measured and objective oversight of utility services in a manner that removes politics from the process, especially at this critical time for the town.