The city of Elkhart’s commercial compact controversy has evolved over five months. To keep track of all the twists and turns, here’s a quick recap with links to some of the stories.
LATE LAST YEAR: After much debate, council approves new policies that set forth sewer rate hikes and expands the use of compact fees for customers outside of the city. The effort to shift residential and commercial customers to the existing compact policy is an attempt to level the playing field for all customers. For commercial customers, though, the change would result in much higher bills.
The council’s approval process is slow. And most of the attention is focused on a provision that would have provided a discounted rate for non-profits, namely, the RV/MH Hall of Fame. Much of the tension stems from an earlier agreement in which Mayor Dick Moore agreed to forgive more than $100,000 in sewer debt from the RV Hall.
Almost entirely overlooked during council debate is the impact the shift would have on commercial customers who would begin paying sewer under the compact policy. Council members later express regret over passing the related ordinance.
EARLY JANUARY: Outrage from commercial customers surfaces quickly and the city delays implementing the change while Moore considers options.
FEB. 4: Moore proposes a compromise that would phase in the new sewer charges over two years to the businesses shifting to the compact policy.
March 4: A month later, council approves the phase in despite a continued uproar from businesses. Numerous council members say the compromise is a stop-gap measure and council president Ron Troyer says he will seek an alternative plan.
MARCH 7: Moore, realizing council may very well pursue its own plan, announces he will revisit the issue and is willing to meet with business owners to draft a solution.
MARCH 18: After a chaotic meeting in which the mayor left before business owners could further vent their concerns, Moore cancels a meeting with business reps. He then reschedules after a few days. Troyer vows to renew his effort to look at an alternative.
MARCH 22: Moore announces a new compromise in which the compact policy would be known as PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) and rely on a revised formula (from the compact policy) based on 50 percent of assessed property value instead of 75 percent.
THE NEXT CHAPTER: It looks as if the issue could simmer until next Monday, April 1, when Moore will likely submit his PILOT proposal.
Given Moore’s new plan, Troyer will be faced with deciding whether to continue to pursue an alternative.