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Huntertown Council gets heated over plant

Huntertown Councilman Gary Grant had some heated words of advice Monday for the three newly elected council members who were in the audience.

“I would really appreciate it if you would get both sides before speaking,” said Grant, one of two incumbents who will remain on the five-member board for the next four years.

The temperature in the meeting room was uncomfortably hot and tempers flared, as well. At one point, some members of the council and audience were shouting at one another.

GOP nominees Mike Stamets, Dave Garman and Brandon Seifert will be sworn into office Jan. 1 after no Democratic candidates filed to run for the council seats by the June 30 deadline. The issue Grant referred to was the town’s proposed plans to build a wastewater treatment plant and disconnect from Fort Wayne City Utilities, which treats the town’s sewage.

Grant voiced concerns about comments he recently heard Seifert make through various social media, including on Facebook.

Grant said that while he and Garman had cordially agreed to disagree on the issue, Seifert has never made an attempt to contact him and “get both sides of the story.”

“We’ve been working on this for 3 1/2 years,” Grant said, “and they were talking about it for years before that.”

Grant said he was unsure when he joined the council four years ago, but since thoroughly researching the issue, he has come to believe the town’s plan “is definitely in the best interest of Huntertown.”

Seifert told Grant that he had tried to contact other members of the council but not Grant because he did not have his phone number, which drew laughter from council members.

“You listen to Fort Wayne and that’s OK, but you need to get both sides and quit going to dinner with the city,” Grant said.

Seifert later told Grant what he objected to was the amount of money the town is spending to pursue the proposed plant, which is under review by the Indiana Departmental of Environmental Management. The first wastewater permit application was denied by IDEM in 2012, and the town spent hundreds of thousands of dollars appealing that decision. In May, the town filed a new permit application, with a different discharge site in Eel River Township.

Huntertown resident Steve Messman suggested that council members survey the community.

“The residents in this town are against this (wastewater treatment plant). Go to the restaurants and stations and talk to them or send out a survey with the utility bills,” Messman said, adding that he had requested the survey in the past, to no avail.

Garman was the last to speak.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations and everyone knows my opinion,” Garman said. “We are not coming into office as gunslingers. We need to come together and heal this town and do what is best for the town – that is my goal.”

In other business, City Utilities will hold an informational public forum on reducing utility costs for Huntertown at 6 p.m. July 16 at Cedar Creek Elementary School.

The city will provide information regarding growth, construction estimates, proposed cost sharing, available service areas, annexation considerations, rates and fees, said Ted Nitza Jr., a consultant and program manager for City Utilities.

Councilman Jim Fortman said he planned to attend and would ask the town attorney and engineer also attend, if possible.