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Sewage plant fight hits $250,000

Huntertown’s bill to appeal state’s denial adding up

– Huntertown has spent more than $250,000 objecting to the state’s denial of a permit for a wastewater treatment plant.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management turned down Huntertown’s request for a permit to build its own $11.2 million sewage plant in October. Huntertown filed an appeal, which is currently before the Indiana Office of Environmental Adjudication.

According to figures provided by Huntertown’s deputy clerk-treasurer, Janine Rudolph, the town has spent $223,088 in legal and engineering fees in the appeal process.

In addition, town officials have four times extended an option – paying $1,000 to $10,000 each time – to buy a 26-acre site on Hathaway Road for $393,500 where they hope to build the new plant.

In May, Huntertown officials filed an extension of the appeal, requesting additional time to submit information requested by Fort Wayne City Utilities, named as an intervening party in the appeal process.

That extension expires July 30.

Another extension allowing Huntertown to submit a new case management order to IDEM will expire Sept. 2.

Along with Huntertown, local resident David Salomon is listed as a petitioner on behalf of the town. Salomon has bought and sold property to the town in the past.

Both Councilman Gary Grant and Vince Heiny, president of the Huntertown Utility Service Board, said they did not know much about the progress of the appeal. Grant voted against filing the appeal, and Heiny was named to Huntertown’s Utilities Board when it was newly formed in January.

Fort Wayne City Utilities has provided wholesale sanitary sewer service to the town of about 5,000 since 1998, but that contract expired April 27. Officials from both sides say negotiations are ongoing, although a mutual agreement has yet to surface.

Two negotiation meetings have been conducted this year, and Heiny said he has attended both. City Utilities has not offered a proposal, he said.

“We asked about a three-year and one-year contract, but we’ve never heard back,” he said.

Sue Gongwer, council president, is the liaison for the negotiations, Grant said. Gongwer did not respond to calls or emails from The Journal Gazette.

In the meantime, Huntertown sued the city of Fort Wayne in Allen Circuit Court in June, asking a judge to invalidate Fort Wayne’s newly minted ordinance governing wholesale wastewater treatment customers.

In a countersuit dated July 2, City Utilities sued Huntertown, asking an Allen Superior Court judge for a review of rates and charges for the wholesale sewage service.