Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

October 18, 2013

Water rate increases requested

Debbie Blank The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — Batesville monthly water rates may rise over the next three years, 40 percent the first year and 10 percent during each of the second and third years.

Batesville Utility Service Board members Tim Dietz and Henry Pictor asked the city council Oct. 14 to vote on their recommendations so the increases could take effect “as soon as possible.”

After consultants at Umbaugh, Indianapolis, conducted a review of city water and gas rates, “Umbaugh recommended we take ... (the water rate) up 80 percent,” Dietz reported. The gas rate will remain the same.

Council President Gene Lambert asked, “What’s an average increase for other communities?” He answered that some municipalities have hiked rates by 70 percent.

If the proposal is approved, 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. Even the highest $25.40 Batesville monthly rate compares favorably to surrounding water utilities, with four lower and seven higher. A chart showed Rushville was at the low end, charging $16.20 for the same amount, and Decatur County Rural Water was highest, charging $67.71.

Dietz reported, “The water operation is very financially sound.” He said the water increases are needed to provide money for projects. According to Pictor, “We have a big job ahead of us. If we do nothing, you’re going to find our reservoirs are simply going to become wetlands” as they fill up with sediment. The cost of dredging Mollenkramer (Coonhunters) Reservoir is $825,000 and Osier Reservoir $600,000.

In addition to other maintenance, such as replacing old pipes, Dietz contended the board must find extra water to combat upcoming droughts and also meet the water needs of future businesses and homes as the city grows.

“We know that by doubling the size” of three smaller reservoirs – Osier, Feller and Hahn – their water capacities would increase from 28 million to 70 million gallons. Dietz observed that a long-term solution might be to connect to an aquifer. “We have contacted a company that will do a study for us about drilling into an aquifer in Sunman.”

Another alternative is hooking into the Brookville aquifer, but there is a $1 million tap fee, plus, after easements were obtained, pipes would have to be installed for miles. “They have told us they will charge us whether we use a drop of water or not just to hook in. We’re hopeful we’ll be able to find a more reasonable resource. We’ve got to find an additional source of water,” he emphasized.

Dietz said, “Allow us to do the things that need to be done in order to be good stewards of the resources we have .... It’s time we move forward.” Council members did not vote on the proposal, but may next month.

The council also received an update on plans to improve the storm sewer system, another city utility. A U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loan will provided the estimated $1.9 million needed for six projects, which were detailed at a March 4 meeting. The areas that will be upgraded are at EGS Boulevard, Ripley and Vine streets, Central Avenue, Park Avenue, Sycamore Lake and Huntersville Road at Woodlawn Drive.

A city meeting detailing the impacts to landowners will take place in November, said senior project managers Dick Weigel and Brian Stephens of HWC Engineering, Indianapolis.

Permits will be obtained from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in December.

Multiple bid specifications would allow for more local bidding, which is slated for March. Land acquisition may be needed, according to Weigel. If the city closes on the Rural Development loan in June 2014, construction would begin the next month and continue through April 2015, they predicted.

Lambert asked which project would be completed first. Weigel said, “That’s something we’re trying to work through now.”

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.

More topics • The Batesville Board of Works inked two memorandums of understanding with the Ripley County Emergency Management Agency. Members agreed that in the event of a natural or manmade disaster, terrorist incident or other crisis, agency leaders could use street department buildings for a logistics supply area or emergency shelter and the fire station for an alternate emergency operations center if the Versailles site was not accessible. In addition, they signed a District 9 mutual aid interlocal government agreement. RCEMA director Patrick Rose explained, "This agreement … is an insurance policy that if something very bad, catastrophic, happens and we're overwhelmed," police and other reinforcements will be provided, similar to task forces used after the Henryville tornado and Sandy Hook, N.J., flooding. • Using a $226,547 Main Street Revitalization Grant awarded to the city in 2012, the board approved two pay requests to upgrade nine downtown facades: $80,118 to Maxwell Construction Co., Greendale, and $12,000 to Administrative Resources association, Columbus. Mayor Rick Fledderman said, "The plan is to have everything completed by the end of the month." • Ordinance 9-2013 detailing the proposed 2014 budget was OK'd by the council. It will be submitted to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance. • The works board and council voted to add Chateau Boulevard and Shelly Avenue into the city's street index, agreeing with the Batesville Advisory Plan Commission recommendation. Street plans were initially approved in 2003, before 2005 standards required a cul-de-sac at the end of a street and before the plat was recorded in 2008. In the future, the city may opt to add one at the end of Chateau Boulevard at taxpayers' expense. BAPC member Kevin Chaffee wanted the subdivision's residents to pay for the cul-de-sac before the street was changed from private to public. At the meeting, Chaffee, also a council member, said, "I've decided to change my mind… I agree the city made the mistake of letting the developer build streets to lesser standards." Because taxpayers elected the officials who approved plans, taxpayers can pay to correct mistakes, he reasoned. Attendee Mike Bettice suggested, "I would encourage the city council to amend or modify that ordinance to include some time frame" for the plat to be recorded before construction standards change. • A new software system compatible with the clerk's office is being implemented at the Batesville Water & Gas Utility. Two resolutions to use Keystone Software Systems billing and ledger software were OK'd. After Chaffee said that at a recent Batesville Utility Service Board meeting problems with the new system were reported, he asked utilities comptroller Doug Browne about it. Browne noted, "We've got some issues we need to work through." • Nobody had a comment during a public meeting about a petition to vacate two alleys at RomWeber Flats (one between Eastern Avenue and Depot Street, the other between Pearl and South streets) that are now underground. Ordinance 10-2013 to vacate the alleys was primarily adopted, with a final vote expected next month.