Brownstown Town Council approves sewer rate study



Now that a sewer rate study and a bond have been approved, the Brownstown Town Council awaits the results to see if a sewer rate increase is needed to complete infrastructure improvements.

Overall, the project would cost around $7 million, including nearly $2 million for sanitary sewer rehabilitation, said Scott Hunsucker, superintendent of Brownstown Wastewater Utility.

Other work includes rehabilitation of the wastewater treatment plant, work on storm sewers and new upsized lift stations.

Once the rate study results are released, Hunsucker will be able to determine the scope of the project.

During a recent council meeting, Mason Cochran, a senior accountant for Reedy Financial Group, delivered some good news.

A worst-case scenario saw bills being raised to $104 a month, but the State Revolving Fund has a program to cap the rate increase.

“SRF is willing to just give you free money to a point where you would only raise your rates to they said the $65 to $75 range, so that whole extra $30ish per bill, they are willing to just give for free so you don’t have to borrow against it and raise rates on people,” Cochran said.

“That’s a big bonus from going through the state on this because they look at all of the municipalities in the state, and they don’t want small towns in Indiana to be paying what Indianapolis folks pay,” he said. “You wouldn’t want to cut back on your projects to reach your rate goal. They are willing to cut down on our end to reach your rate goal.”

The $75 maximum per month would be based on 4,000 gallons. Right now, customers pay $54 a month.

Shannon McLeod with Priority Project Resources of Greensburg said that increase is doable.

“Until Mason runs those numbers and until we see what the state is willing to provide, we’ll see what the deal is, and if the deal is not good, then you can try to cut some things out and lower the scope of the project,” she told the council.

The town last increased its sewer rates in 2012 and 2018.

Hunsucker said the preliminary review of the project already has been completed. The town needed to rank in the top 50% of the tier to be a fundable project, and fortunately, it’s currently in that bracket, he said.

The next step is to have a rate study done based on the preliminary engineering report. It’s due July 1 and takes at least three weeks to do.

Brooke Chaille with Reedy Financial Group said she will send a request to Brownstown Clerk-Treasurer David Willey for the town’s financials so they can get started on the rate study. SRF will look at the financials and see how a rate increase would impact users.

The council unanimously approved a $5,000 contract for the rate study and a $20,000 contract for bond work, both with Reedy Financial Group. Cochran said those costs will get wrapped into the bond.

Hunsucker is interested to find out the results of the rate study so he and Wessler Engineering can determine the scope of the project.

“The sanitary rehab is a very extensive list,” he said. “We can cut out of it to get us with those scenarios at that point, but right now, we don’t know. … We may look at cutting this, cutting that or trying to figure out what we need to do to get where we need to be.”

The council also has discussed creating a stormwater utility, but that would result in an additional fee for residents.

Councilwoman Sharon Koch asked from a resident’s perspective if it’s better to have two larger increases at once or split them up.

Looking at the PER, McLeod said she thinks the stormwater utility fee can be added later.

“Maybe once this one’s moving further ahead, start taking the steps to create that stormwater utility and perhaps have a minimal fee that’s affiliated with that once it’s created to kind of start getting some seed money,” she said.

“Then in a couple of years, you could probably with some of the seed money that you have apply and get one of those OCRA (Office of Community and Rural Affairs) grants and you could do around $600,000 worth of work for $100,000 that you guys put in,” she said. “I think go ahead and keep what’s recommended right now and get that done, and then move forward later, maybe the first part of next year.”

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