Communities that own and operate their sewer and water departments have to maintain infrastructure so it works efficiently and lasts for as long as possible.
The time comes to repair or replace lines, pumps, lift stations and other resources, and those costs continue to rise. For those reasons, the Crothersville Town Council has learned the water rate needs to increase by 0.75 percent a few months into 2018 and the sewer rate will need to go up 2.75 percent in 2019.
The town has had a water rate increase each year since 2015, while the sewer rate hasn’t increased since 2015.
Water, sewer, stormwater and trash collection fees are combined into one monthly utility bill in Crothersville. Water and sewer fees are based on the amount of gallons used, while trash is $9.50 and stormwater is $3 for residences.
After conducting a rate study, Steve Brock with Therber Brock & Associates LLC in Carmel recently told the council that increases of 3.38 percent and 13.26 percent are needed for water and sewer rates, respectively.
The council agreed to spread out both rate increases over five years instead of all at once.
“I don’t think that’s going to hurt our people in town too bad,” council President Lenvel “Butch” Robinson said.
That wouldn’t hurt anybody a whole lot, I don’t think, as long as the cost of living keeps going up on people’s wages.”
Brock said he will draft a water and sewer rate ordinance to present to town attorney Jeff Lorenzo, who will then share it with the council for possible adoption.
There will be two readings for the ordinance and a public hearing, giving residents a chance to voice their opinions. Brock said he could be at the meetings to answer any questions from the public.
Town officials will advertise when the council decides to do the public hearing and first and second readings, which most likely will be at the January and February council meetings. They are on the first Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the town hall.
If the ordinance passes, the water rate change may be effective starting with the March 2018 billing.
The increase each of the next five years will allow the town to put money into a fund to replace water lines. Robinson said town employees currently are working with an engineering firm to decide which lines are the oldest or in the worst shape.
Brock said the water rate didn’t need as much of an increase because the town paid off a water bond in 2016, and that was offset some by the town entering into a maintenance contract for the recent water tower rehabilitation project.
The town building up fund balances and operating well from budgets also helped keep the rate increase low, Brock said.
“Right now, we have actually got very good equipment. Of course, everything wears out,” Robinson said. “Hopefully, we can get through several years with what we have.”
The current sewer rate, however, is 4.86 percent below where it should be, Brock said.
Still, Crothersville’s rate will be within what’s considered affordable and is not that out of line with surrounding communities, he said.
“I have lots of customers and clients that would like to have the rates that you have right now, I can tell you,” Brock said.
Robinson said if any other industries choose to come to Crothersville, improvements would have to be made to the sewer plant.
“It takes care of everything we’ve got now, but if we put anything in, it’s not going to,” he said. “We’re really hoping to see somebody move in.”