Utility Rates

The Town of Munster maintains three underground utilities. We are a wholesale customer of water from the Hammond Water Works Department. This means we own and operate the distribution system for water. Additionally, we are a member of the Hammond Sanitary District. The District owns and maintains all the pump stations, pressurized mains, retention basins, and the sanitary sewage treatment plant. The Town owns and maintains the gravity drains. Finally, we own and maintain our stormwater system, which manages over-land water from rain and snowmelt.

Each of these different utilities should be looked at as an enterprise that we are all stakeholders in.

At their December 20th meeting, Council received a presentation by a utility rate consultant. This presentation went through the current costs of maintaining our utility enterprises.

These utility enterprises have significant maintenance needs, particularly in our water utility. Munster has experienced over 30 water main breaks a year for the past three years. This is not normal for a system of our size, or sustainable. Additionally, all seven of our water towers are due to be reconditioned. If this necessary maintenance is deferred, it places in question not only the reliability of our water pressure but our ability to continue to deliver this resource safely and consistently.

The situation we find ourselves in is a result of the Town having under-charged for the cost of service for decades. This is understandably a very common practice. Many cities and towns do not want to charge their residents the actual cost of providing the service and therefore either subsidize their utilities from other sources or simply lower their service expectations until a catastrophic failure that will end up costing more than gradual rate increases for routine maintenance. 

It is no secret that street flooding is an issue during intense rain events. These intense rain events are happening at increasingly frequent intervals. Our stormwater system was constructed with the assumption that the weather we experienced when the system was designed would be the weather that we would experience indefinitely. As it happens, that is not the case. To effectively address street flooding and other stormwater challenges, we must recalculate our stormwater fee. As it is, the current stormwater fee supplements the sewer user fees we receive from the Hammond Sanitary District to maintain our sanitary sewer collection system. If a new fee is adopted, the Town will have the capacity to improve stormwater capacity and drainage. 

I would encourage you to review these documents and participate in the conversation on how best to steward our resources. 

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