Crothersville sewer rates increasing 71%

CROTHERSVILLE

Starting with the February 2021 bills, Crothersville Utilities customers will see a 71% increase in their monthly sewer rates.

During a public hearing at the start of Tuesday’s Crothersville Town Council meeting, Steve Brock with Therber Brock and Associates said the purpose of the increase is for the town to be able to pay the debt service on a $6,512,000 sewage project. That’s required by the state to become compliant with discharge permits with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

This will only affect the sewage works rate on the monthly utility bill, Brock said.

The new rates were determined based on 2019 because that’s the most recent full year of operating data available, he said.

On the monthly use breakdown, the increase ranges from $15.15 for 1,000 gallons to $76.55 for 12,000 gallons. According to IDEM, Brock said the typical monthly water usage is 5,000 gallons. Council President Danieta Foster said the average monthly usage in Crothersville is around 2,500 gallons.

Brad Bender with FPBH Inc. said 12 years ago, the town was put under an agreed order to take steps to make changes and improvements to the town’s wastewater system.

Crothersville is the smallest of the 109 combined sewer overflow communities in Indiana that are being ordered by IDEM and the Environmental Protection Agency to upgrade its wastewater system to eliminate CSO. Years ago, it was a popular practice to design sanitary and wastewater together.

The agreed order expires at the end of this year. Bender said the town could present a petition to amend the agreed order to an administrative law judge and get a new schedule in place, but that could result in fines, penalties and a possible takeover of the town’s utilities with an increase in rates and charges.

“There is a parade of horribles that you don’t hear about very often. They don’t happen very often because people don’t let it go that far,” Brock said.

“I don’t think at this juncture after 12 years that the administrative law judge would make that modification,” town attorney Jeff Lorenzo said. “I think we have extended this as far as possible. We’ve benefited in terms of the length of time given to us because the town is so small, and I think IDEM recognizes the impact this is going to have on the ratepayers.”

Bender agreed.

“It’s not just a matter of complying by Jan. 1 of next year. It’s having the work done in May 2022 (substantial completion) and then July 2022 (final completion),” he said. “Now, we’re moving along, we’re on schedule and everything is falling in place like it should.”

The work includes building a new wet weather overflow main, installing an in-line hydrodynamic stormwater separator, constructing a duplex wet weather pumping station and force main, modifying existing plant surge basins with concrete wall cores and many other key improvements.

Earlier this year, the town council approved a bond ordinance not to exceed $6 million, a bond anticipation note for up to $550,000 and an engineering contract for nearly $900,000.

In August, the town was awarded a $700,000 Wastewater/Drinking Water Program grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs to put toward the project.

Brock said the rest is being funded on a $5,787,000 State Revolving Fund loan on a fixed interest rate of 3.01% over 35 years and a $25,000 SRF grant.

The council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance to amend verbiage in an ordinance created after a public hearing in December 2019 to comply with SRF requirements and an ordinance to amend the sewer rates. The board also suspended the rules to waive the second readings and approve the ordinances so the project can move forward.

A virtual preclosing meeting for the loan was scheduled for Friday, and the loan has to be closed by Dec. 18. The council approved to give Foster authority to sign contracts and a notice to proceed with construction.

One of the contracts is for FPBH to put together an asset management plan, which is an SRF requirement. That normally would cost around $50,000, but the firm offered a nearly $15,000 discount since it already has done a lot of work on the sewage system and is familiar with it.

Brock said the purpose of the plan is for a community to have an analysis of its assets performed to determine their remaining useful life, the cost to replace them and their criticality of failure.

FPBH will determine a replacement plan over the next 20 years, and Therber Brock and Associates will manage the financial portion of using funds on hand or some sort of additional debt or grant and determining what the utility rates are going to be each year.

The $25,000 SRF grant will offset the cost of the plan, and the remaining cost will be built into the project budget, Brock said.

Parts of the CSO compliance plan already completed include repairs to increase capacity at the wastewater treatment plant between 2011 and 2013, replacing three culverts along Hominy Ditch at Bethany Road, Park Avenue and Kovener Street to assist with stormwater management within the town in 2016 and replacing a lift station and completing stormwater repairs around the intersection of Seymour Road and Cindy Lane in 2019.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”By the numbers” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Crothersville Utilities sewer rates will increase starting with February 2021 bills based on January 2021 consumption.

Monthly gallons;2019 rate;2021 rate;Increase

1,000;$21.19;$36.34;$15.15

2,000;$26.29;$49.73;$23.44

3,000;$36.81;$63.12;$26.31

4,000;$44.62;$76.51;$31.89

5,000;$52.43;$89.90;$37.47

6,000;$60.24;$103.30;$43.06

7,000;$68.05;$116.69;$48.64

8,000;$75.86;$130.08;$54.22

9,000;$83.67;$143.47;$59.80

10,000;$91.48;$156.86;$65.38

11,000;$99.29;$170.26;$70.97

12,000;$107.10;$183.65;$76.55

[sc:pullout-text-end]