Financial Consultant Recommends Rates Increases For Town’s Water & Sewer

The Crothersville Town Council learned the inevitable last Tuesday during their regular town council meeting: water and sewer rates for customers will have to be increased.
Steve Brock, a CPA for the utility rate consulting firm Therber, Brock & Associates of Carmel, told the council that water rates need to be increased 3.8% over five years and sewer rates need to go up 13.26% for the same time period.
The council is leaning toward smaller annual increases.
“Taking the rates up a little each year is better than one big jump,” said council president Lenvel ‘Butch’ Robinson.
The town water rates have seen automatic annual increases of one percent for the past several years. Any approved increase to local water and sewer rates would not be seen on customers’ bills until 2019.
Current water charges for the 625 households in Crothersville are $8.69 first the first 10,000 gallons of water. Therber, Brock is proposing that go up 29¢ to $8.98. The current charge for a 5/8” residential water meter is $21.69 per month. The rate consultant’s report says that number need be increased by 73¢ over the next five years to $22.42.
The recommended 3.8% increase would amount to .75% annually. Since residents are accustomed to a 1% annual water rate increase, “I don’t think (.75%) will hurt people very bad,” said Robinson.
The town sewer rates are another story.
“You currently are 4.86% below what is needed to break even with your wastewater treatment costs for the next five years,” said Brock.
“Your wastewater rates need a 13.26% increase. That’s 2.75% annual increase for five years and you are still breaking even,” said the consultant.
Current minimum sewer charges are $43.42 per household would go to $49 per month under the proposed increases.
“A lot of Crothersville’s customers compare their monthly utility bills to what their friends pay in other communities,” said councilwoman Danieta Foster. “We need to get a comparison—a true comparison—of what residents in surrounding communities are paying.
She noted that Crothersville is unique in that residents receive one monthly bill for five services: water, sewer, trash pick up, recycling collection, and a stormwater utility fee.
“Many residents call it their water bill and compare (their monthly bill for five services) to a bill for just water in other communities,” she said. “I’d like to see a true comparison on what we provide residents and what the true the comparable costs are for the same services are in communities surrounding Crothersville.”
The council approved Therber, Brock & Associates to compile a comparison and present it to the council at a future meeting.
In a related matter to water, town engineer Brad Bender of FPBH, said the much delayed work on the Hominy Ditch stormwater grant has begun. The work includes replacing culverts with larger box culverts on Bethany Road, Kovener Street and Park Avenue.
Bender earlier said the delay was a result of O’Mara Paving have so much resurfacing work under state contract.
“But the work is now underway and the good news is O’Mara is bringing in a second crew to work the project,” said Bender.
In addition to replacing box culverts the work calls for Hominy Ditch, the main east-west stormwater drainage in Crothersville, to be cleaned out of trees and overgrown vegetation on the west side of town.
Bethany Road is currently closed to allow for the box culvert installation. But because of the delay in beginning work, paving of the roadways will be delayed to spring.
“The work won’t be completed until after the asphalt plants close for the winter,” said Bender.
He offered the council two options:
The town can deduct paving from the O’Mara Contract and save $15,000 with the paving to be completed under the recently approved Community Crossroads grant which will pave 14 streets in town next year.
Or the town can have concrete installed at the work area and re-pave with asphalt next year for a $9,083 savings from the O’Mara contract.
The council did not like the option of no paving and leaving the box culvert approaches with loose rock over the winter. “We get a heavy rain, the water runs down Bethany Road and washed the rock into the ditch,” said councilman Bob Lyttle. “Of the three streets, Bethany Road is the most heavily traveled. If we can’t have it paved we need to concrete it for the winter and blacktop it next year.”
The council unanimously approved the concrete option.
While on the topic of paving, Bender returned to the town’s $423,400 State Community Crossroads Grant.
“We have to have the work under contract by April 15,” said Bender. “That means we need to have the design work and specifications completed, bid and a contract awarded by April 1.”
Bender explained that the state has not deadline date to complete the paving grant. “That is good because there have been 396 CCG’s awarded across the state that we are worried if there will be enough companies to do the work and if there will be enough aggregate (stone) available to make the asphalt so the work can be completed.”
Bender said it is imperative that Crothersville be able to go to bid early and award a contract to lock in the work.
The council approved FPBH to complete the design and oversee construction and administer the grant work at a fee of $41,500. That money comes from the awarded grant funds.
In a final matter, Bender told the council that the recently approved Main Street Circle, and East Walnut Street extension have been added to the town’s street inventory. That means the town will begin receiving state gas tax road and street funding for the additional town streets, he said.
In a final matter, the council approved a town Christmas Parade on Saturday, Dec. 9. The parade route will begin on Bard Street, travel south on Armstrong, turn east on Moore and conclude at the fire station where Santa Claus will be on hand to talk with youngsters.

Refuge Bookstore Open House This Weekend

Muscatatuck Wildlife Society bookstore at the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, will host an open house from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 18 and from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. The bookstore is located at 12985 E. US 50, Seymour.
Find gifts for nature lovers, both children and adults, books, puzzles, clothing, puppets, jewelry, free gift wrap and more will be available.
Muscatatuck Wildlife Society board members will be on hand to answer questions. Call 812-522-4352 for details.

Bake Sale, Soup Supper At Hamacher Hall Saturday

Crothersville Historical and Cultural Arts Association will host a soup supper and bake sale this Saturday, Nov. 11, from 4-6 p.m. There will be a variety of soups and other items available for purchase, as well as an assortment of baked goods.
This has become an annual autumn affair at Hamacher Hall, and everyone is welcome at this family friendly event. A ramp is available for handicap accessibility.
Funds raised are used for maintaining and improving the facilities at Hamacher Hall, which is located at 111 East Howard Street in Crothersville. Donations are always welcome, and are tax deductible.
For more information about the event or CHACA call Linda at 812-531-3695, or Brenda at 812-793-2760.

Jackson County Water Utility Plans Expansion In Vernon Township

A planned Jackson County Water Utility expansion could benefit residents in northern and eastern Vernon Township.
According to JCWU manager Larry McIntosh, the three sections of the project will involve the installation of about 28 miles of new lines and could provide water to up to 600 households along the planned path.
McIntosh said the water utility has applied to the state’s Drinking Water Revolving Fund Loan Program to finance the $7 million expansion. He said the Brownstown based rural water utility is hoping to obtain a 30-year loan at 2.4% interest to pay for the expansion project.
“We’ll be holding a public hearing seeking input and answering questions from residents along the proposed expansion area,” said McIntosh. The public hearing will be held beginning at 5:30 p.m. next Thursday, Nov. 16 at the rural water utility office at 1119 W. Spring Street in the Ewing area of Brownstown.
Engineering consultant, Curry & Associates, Inc., will present the recommended improvements which includes distribution system expansion southeast of Seymour and north and east of Crothersville.
At this hearing, there will be the opportunity for questions and comments from the public, McIntosh said.
“All three sections of this project are in areas where residential growth is on-going or anticipated,” said the utility manager.
About 16 miles of 6” & 10” thick-walled PVC pipe would be installed in Section A southeast of Seymour outside the city limits.
Sections B & C of the expansion will occur in Vernon Township resulting in about 12 miles of pipe being installed to serve up nearly 200 households.
“Because of the number of industries along the I-65 & US 31 corridor, this section of Vernon Township is where is expect there to be increased numbers of houses,” he said.
Residents along the proposed expansion path will be receiving a survey sometime before Christmas, McIntosh said. “We hope they will complete the survey and mail it back in the postage paid envelope.”
He said if funding is approved, construction would start southeast of Seymour early fall 2018. The sections of Vernon Township would see construction begin late fall 2018. The entire project is expected to take about 18 months.
The construction would begin from existing service outward so that new expansion customers could be brought into service when the water main is installed along their home rather than wait until the entire project is complete.
Easement acquisition would begin as soon as the project receives funding approval, McIntosh said.
McIntosh said this proposed project does not include any towers or tanks for water pressure. “The 750,000 tank on top on Chestnut Ridge will us used to supply water pressure to the Vernon Township expansion,” he said.
Fire hydrants would be installed about every mile of the new waterline. “This will help with fire protection in the area and could result in a lowering of some property owners’ homeowners insurance,” noted McIntosh.
Unlike a municipal or regional sewer service, residents along the path of the proposed water line expansion will not be coerced to become a customer.
“We hope people realize that personal water wells do not last forever. There are costs to repair and maintenance,” said the utility manager. “Additionally, sometimes there are water quality issues with private wells which may involve the aquifer, water hardness, offending odors, or surface water infiltration.”
“Our rural water utility can help insure a stable supply of clean water to those who want to be our customers,” he said.
Jackson County Water Utility was formed in 1970 and began water service in 1975. It currently serves 5,600 customers throughout Jackson County outside the municipal areas of Seymour and Crothersville. Glenn E. Henry of Crothersville is a local representative on the rural water board of directors.