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Huntertown acts to supply drinking water on its own

Huntertown wants to be the primary supplier of drinking water to those living in town and beyond.

Town Council members unanimously approved a new drinking water service area Monday. The area will extend four miles beyond the town’s corporate limits.

The ruling excludes customers who – as of Monday – are already being served by Fort Wayne City Utilities.

It also stipulates that the town will hold the exclusive license to furnish water to customers within that area, and other utilities are prohibited from furnishing water services in the area.

Attorneys for City Utilities are reviewing the ordinance, Fort Wayne consultant Ted Nitza said Thursday.

“At the same time, we continue to want to help Huntertown with water and sewer services,” Nitza said.

City Utilities officials knew nothing of the new ordinance until they saw it on the council’s agenda a few days before Monday’s meeting, Nitza said.

Huntertown is in the process of constructing a $1.8 million water filtration plant at Lima and Carroll roads, part of an overall $4.5 million project to improve the capacity and pressure of the town’s water system.

The new plant is on about 11 acres on the Byron Health Center campus.

The county ceded the land to Huntertown in 2010. In exchange, Huntertown agreed to provide – at no cost to the county – drinking water to the existing county buildings on the campus, including Byron Health Center and the highway, sheriff’s and health departments and Youth Services Center.

Huntertown Councilman Gary Grant said the ordinance will simply allow the town to be able to provide water services when requested.

Still unknown is how – or whether – the new water service area will affect developers who have previously requested City Utilities as their provider for a new subdivision or development, but construction has not yet started.

An approved proposal from Chestnut Group to develop about 48 acres into a single-family subdivision called Timber Ridge – with 119 homes on the south side of Gump Road, just west of the intersection of Coldwater and Cedar Canyon roads – would fall into the new four-mile service area.

Zoning to build multiunit villas on the site was approved in 2005, but it was never developed because of issues over water and sewer service. Chestnut Group told the Allen County Plan Commission in July that water and sewer services would be provided by Fort Wayne City Utilities.

At the time, Huntertown attorney David Hawk argued that the land was in Huntertown’s service planning area and if approved, Huntertown would be forced to seek an injunction preventing development until its right to provide utilities was preserved.

Hawk asked that the decision be delayed 30 days until a new contract with Fort Wayne could be worked out.

Allen County developers and builders must fill out an application in the early stages of development, which is usually the zoning process, said Kim Bowman, executive director of the Department of Planning Services.

“On that application, they must specify who will be providing water and sewer,” she said. “We do not get involved in who is supplying the services. Our interest is to make sure that public water and sewer will be provided.”