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No answers during Huntertown meeting

HUNTERTOWN – Questions about a pending permit to dump water from the town's drinking water plant into nearby Geller Ditch went unanswered by the Huntertown Council on Tuesday.

One councilwoman, however, urged the others to answer the questions.

"I don't understand this board's reluctance to be open and transparent with the public," Councilwoman Pat Freck said.

The waiting period to submit comments or to request a public hearing from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management expired at midnight Tuesday. Some members of the public had discovered the town's plan only four days earlier, Huntertown resident Dave Garman said.

Garman asked why the council had been so secretive about the permit application and wondered why the town insisted on discharging the backwash into Geller Ditch.

Council President Sue Gongwer said the council and the town's engineer, who was in the audience, did not have the authority to answer questions they felt were under the jurisdiction of the utility board, which meets once a month.

But Freck disagreed.

"Why can't we or (the engineer) just answer his questions?" Freck asked. "I don't see why these people aren't getting an answer."

Garman said he objected to degrading Geller Ditch and asked again why the public was kept in the dark.

"I don't have an answer for that," Gongwer said, asking the town's attorney to step in. In the end, Garman's questions were not answered.

The discharge water is a result of backwashing the drinking water system filters to flush out accumulated debris and particles.

The draft permit from the IDEM would allow Huntertown to discharge up to 6,000 gallons daily into the ditch, which flows into Eel River.

Huntertown is in the process of constructing a $1.8 million drinking water filtration plant on 11 acres along Carroll Road near Lima Road, part of a $4.5 million project to improve the capacity and pressure of the town's water system.

The current water plant provides drinking water to the Allen County Fairgrounds and for nearby county land and buildings.

The town would reclaim 90.percent of the water, according to the permit application, and discharge the remaining 10 percent.

IDEM denied a permit for a proposed $11.2 million sewage plant in October because the facility would cause significant pollution to Geller Ditch, where the treated water was to be discharged. The town council filed an appeal but has yet to hear a decision from IDEM.

Huntertown officials, in response to rapid growth and substantial rate hikes from Fort Wayne City Utilities, were hoping to build and operate their own wastewater treatment plant. They planned to break ties with Fort Wayne City Utilities, which has provided the town with sewer service since 1988. That contract will expire in April.

Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry attended Tuesday's meeting, asking the Huntertown Council to work with the city to find solutions to meet the needs of the community as a whole.

"A strong Huntertown is a strong community and county overall," Henry said.

The mayor asked council members to come up with a list of wants and needs.

"I assure you my staff and I will give it our utmost attention," Henry said.

Ted Nitza, program manager for City Utilities, said City Utilities had reduced its fees of $2,600 to $3,500 on one-time sewer connection fees for new homes to $2,000, effective Jan. 1.

Although they were thanked for attending the meeting and speaking, council members did not reply to the comments made by Henry or Nitza.

vsade@jg.net

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