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.