Batesville Utility Service Board members Henry Pictor and Tim Dietz made the case for water rate hikes over the next three years and the Batesville City Council unanimously agreed with their proposals Nov. 13.
Ordinance 12-2013 was approved on its first reading, with a final reading expected in December.
If the ordinance is adopted, the increases would be 40 percent in 2014 and 10 percent during each of 2015 and 2016. The current $14.99 rate for a typical Batesville household that uses 4,000 gallons monthly would climb to $20.97 the first year, $23.08 the second and $25.40 the third.
Pictor explained that even though Bischoff Reservoir seems deep, only the top 10 feet of water is usable as the water near the bottom contains too much silt. “Evaporation in a good, hot year will take 20 to 30 percent of our stored water out there. If we had a drought year and lost water to evaporation and didn’t get rainwater, ... we may be down to somewhere in the neighborhood of three to four months of water … we would be in deep, deep trouble. We simply must do something. To build another reservoir is next to impossible” because of required permits.
He announced, “We have made a decision to pursue groundwater, rather than surface water” because members feel it is a more reliable source. “And folks, that’s a big, big decision … we’ve grappled with this problem meeting after meeting after meeting.”
Most likely the groundwater would come from a large underground aquifer near Brookville and be accessed by the utility in Metamora. According to Pictor, some scientists believe its water originates in Lake Michigan and travels in a deep underground river to Franklin County.
If the ordinance goes into effect Feb. 1, the rate increases would generate an additional $355,000 in 2014; $545,000 in 2015; and $705,000 in 2016 and each year beyond that.
The 2014-18 Batesville Water & Gas Utility capital improvements and maintenance projects budget totals $11.6 million, with about half, $5 million, needed in 2018 to construct a water filter plant at Huntersville and Vote roads to purify water coming from the aquifer. The water utility already has $1.25 million cash on hand. “Probably in order to fund that treatment plant, we’ll have to get a bond issue” and use the extra revenue from the rate hikes to pay the bond off, according to him.