News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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September 26, 2013

Summer sewer bill discount offered by city

1990 ordinance designed for those with pools

TERRE HAUTE — If you like to water your lawn in Terre Haute, you can get a discount on your sewer bill during one month each summer.

A little-known section of city code allows residents to get a one-time deduction on their sewer bills each summer season.

The ordinance, originally designed to give a break to folks with swimming pools, was passed in 1990. Sewer bills are calculated based on water usage because it is assumed most of your water ends up in the sewer system. But, because water used for watering lawns or in pools often remains out of the sewer system, the city set up the discount.

To qualify for the discount, send a letter asking for the “Summer Water Use Allowance” to City Hall, Sewage Billing, Room 209, 17 Harding Ave., Terre Haute, IN 47807, said Leslie Ellis, city controller, who manages the discount for the city. You need only supply your name and address with the request, Ellis said.

The allowance is calculated using a somewhat complicated formula plugging in your past water usage figures. Basically, the controller determines your lowest monthly water usage and then adds 30 percent to get “the normal summertime usage,” according to the city ordinance.

Then the controller finds your highest water usage from the previous year. The difference between the two figures is your summer allowance, which is then applied to a single month’s bill the following year, as determined by the controller.

In no case can your summer allowance drop your sewage disposal bill below the minimum monthly bill amount, which is currently $17.50. The allowance also must be calculated based on actual meter readings, not estimates, the ordinance states.

Beginning last December, the city took over responsibility for sewage billing from Indiana-American Water Co., which chose to get out of the billing business. City officials hired TPI Billing Solutions, a Tulsa, Okla.-based company, to manage the billing.

During Tuesday night’s City Council budget hearings, Councilman John Mullican, D-6th, asked Brad Speidel, the city’s information technology director, how the new billing system is working.

“Always getting better,” Speidel said, noting that Indiana-American Water Co. continues to provide water usage figures on which sewer bills are based. The utility recently underwent a large “data conversion” that – unintentionally – resulted in the loss of some apartment numbers, leading to billing complications for some landlords, Speidel told the council. Indiana-American is addressing the problem and “it’s getting better, it really is,” he said.

Mullican and Council President Norm Loudermilk asked Speidel to seek a report from TPI detailing several points, including how much money it is collecting, how many calls from Terre Haute customers it is receiving and the average wait-time for calls. Mullican also asked whether TPI can advise a good time of day for customers to call with questions that will avoid long waits.

Mullican had already requested such information from TPI, he said.

About 25,000 customers use Indiana-American Water and also use the city’s sanitary sewer system. About 3,000 well-water customers and 1,500 Seelyville water customers are also billed through TPI, according to 2012 figures provided by the city.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com

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