Crothersville to apply for loans, grants to fund water system project

CROTHERSVILLE — The preliminary engineering report for Crothersville’s drinking water system is completed.

While there are several major issues and the project will cost more than $10.6 million, a lot of infrastructure money is available right now, and more is expected to be available in 2022, Dan Wright, chief executive officer of FPBH Inc., told the Crothersville Town Council during a recent meeting.

On unanimous votes, the council approved the PER summary, a resolution to move forward with the project and a resolution to give President Jason Hillenburg authority to sign loan and grant applications on behalf of the town.

The plan is to seek funding from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, State Revolving Fund, U.S. Economic Development Administration and Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

“We’re just trying to hit all of the caps that we can get in order to see if we can leverage as much as we can with grant money,” Wright said. “The goal is to try to find as much grant money — because you don’t have to pay it back — as possible upfront.”

Wright suggested going to the Environmental Infrastructure Working Group and bringing the other entities to the table to figure out how the project can get done and get financed to make it doable for the town.

“We want to try to see what we can do to keep those dollars down so you’re always at a point where you can say, ‘OK, we’re backing out of this at any point if it just seems like it’s not going to be doable for you,’” he said.

“But right now, most of those agencies are looking at ways to get the money out, and I think this is a good opportunity,” he said. “I think it may be a good time to be able to leverage all of those funds to be able to get this project done and get it done at a reasonable rate.”

The town commissioned FPBH to develop the PER to evaluate distribution infrastructure and assess the adequacy of current water supplies.

Municipally owned and operated raw water source wells in combination with wholesale purchases by means of a contractual agreement with Stucker Fork Water Utility comprises the source water supplies that serve the town. Crothersville also is interconnected with Jackson County Water Utility for emergency use; however, there are no current agreements to purchase water from the utility.

Currently, two of the three wells owned and operated by the town are in working order and in production, but both wells are required to be in serial operation in order to supply the volume necessary to meet the town’s needs. This leaves no emergency redundancy.

Solutions to increase production of these wells and/or purchase of additional supply from wholesale agreements are vital to ensure a proper system operation, according to the PER.

A majority of the town’s supply, treatment and distribution system is nearing the end of useful life. Broken mains are increasingly becoming a concern, as it is estimated that roughly half of the system is more than 40 years old, and the remaining components are nearing or exceeding 25 years of age.

By going to a full purchase of water from a wholesale user, Wright said the purchasing agreement would be regulated by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Any impact on residents’ utility bills won’t be known until June 2022.

“The cost of maintaining the system is so expensive for the amount of users that you have that it’s just going to continue to grow to be more of a cost burden to the community,” Wright said. “The economies of scale just aren’t in the favor of the town to be able to continue to operate that way, so that’s the reason why a recommendation was made to look at purchasing water and then repairing and upgrading the existing distribution system.”

Also, much of the older water mains are of 4-inch diameter and contain dead ends. Dead end systems diminish fire protection and may adversely impact water quality by increasing water age, the PER states.

The distribution system also lacks adequate isolation valving that is necessary to properly perform maintenance and make repairs. Inadequate valving raises operation and maintenance costs by increasing the number of man-hours required to make emergency repairs. Additionally, a greater number of customers are impacted when these activities are performed.

Concerns in the industrial park on the south end of town are twofold. Industries often experience low pressure and inadequate fire protection volume, resulting in the added expense of owning, maintaining and operating individual fire suppression tanks and systems. Inadequate volume and flow to the industrial park may limit new development as well as detour existing industries from expanding.

In summary, the project will:

1. Provide additional elevated storage for volume; install new altitude valve(s) and chlorine boosters

2. Replace existing 4-inch diameter mains with 6-inch diameter mains

3. Eliminate dead ends with looped systems

4. Replace inoperable valves

5. Install isolation valves at strategic locations to reduce service area impacted during maintenance and/or breaks

6. Upsize and replace the existing southern connection transmission main to Stucker Fork along U.S. 31

7. Install new remote-read meters within the distribution system

8. Replace Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system

9. Install security fencing and access for the existing 300,000-gallon elevated water storage tank

The combination of these efforts will assist the town in maintaining sustainable service for current needs as well as provide flexibility to ensure future opportunities for growth are possible, according to the PER.

“A lot of this expense is something that’s going to have to be repaired anyway, and if we don’t repair it ahead of time and we wait until we have an issue or something, then obviously, those costs end up being higher in the long run,” Councilman Jamy Greathouse said.

Now that a public hearing has been conducted on the PER and the town passed the resolutions for the document and to move forward, the next step is to begin applying for loans and grants in January. The project design contract also will be up for approval next month.

The OCRA grant application is due in April, and grant and loan approval will be announced in July.

In hopes that Crothersville receives funding, it would receive project plans and specifications in December 2022 and consider approval in February 2023. The town would then advertise for construction bids in April of that year, open bids in May and have construction start in June.

Final completion would be in May 2025.