Long-term water supply

John Seever explained the financing for the long-term water project.

Having a reliable long-term water supply has been a top priority for Batesville Utility Service Board members and city leaders for years.

Currently, the Batesville Water Utility’s water comes from four reservoirs, Bischoff, Mollenkramer, Oser and Hahn. Water from these reservoirs is pumped to a surface water treatment plant and then distributed throughout the system.

This has worked well for many years. However, it also means the utility is totally dependent upon rainfall, which leads to concerns about long-term droughts, water quality and having a dependable water source for future growth.

“We have looked at building additional reservoirs, but because of the many restrictions” that go along with this, it was not deemed feasible, said BUSB President Arnie Kirschner.

Also, reservoirs fill in over a period of time, and cleaning them is very expensive, pointed out water utility manager Eric Laker.

Officials have agreed the best solution is to get water from an aquifer on city-owned property in Brookville. Sixteen miles of pipeline will be constructed between this water supply well field and a new ion exchange water softening plant in Batesville.

This will give the city “high-quality water” and a dependable water source for the future.

Recently, all the pieces have begun to fall into place to make this a reality.

On Aug. 29, BUSB members opened bids for the project and chose the low bidder for each section.

Two bids, ranging from $2.3 million-$2.4 million, were received for constructing the water supply well field. The low bidder was Bastin-Logan Water Services, Franklin.

There were 11 bids, ranging from $9 million-$12.9 million for the base bid, for the water main installation. The low bid went to Brackney Inc., Brookville.

Five bids, ranging from $5.7 million-$6.6 million for the base bid, were submitted for the water plant construction. The low bidder was Reynolds, Orleans.

Laker believes it will take about 18 months to install water mains and about 20 months to complete the water plant.

A Sept. 5 BUSB meeting focused on financing.

John Seever, Baker Tilly, Indianapolis, certified public accountant, noted that after factoring in the construction and nonconstruction costs, which include engineering, inspections, monitoring, easements, studies and other items, and subtracting cash on hand, the total amount to be funded over a 35-year period is $18.77 million. “This balance is expected to be funded through the State Revolving Fund Loan Program.”

“There will be a bond issue, and we’re assuming an interest rate of 3.05 percent ... but this may not be the actual final rate.”

In order to fund the project, an additional $895,800 – 31.7 percent of the annual $2.9 million budget – is needed annually. This will be generated from user rates.

Seever presented two options for this. The first would increase the minimum water bill by $9.07 monthly and increase the average residential bill by $11.68 monthly beginning in 2020.

“An alternative will allow you to phase in the rate over a two-year period.” Phase I, beginning in 2020, would increase the minimum bill by $5.72 monthly and the average residential bill by $7.37 monthly. Then for Phase II, beginning in 2021, there would be additional increase of $3.56 monthly for the minimum bill and $4.59 monthly for the average residential bill.

Seever maintained, “To close on the bond issue, you must have all these rates approved.”

After a brief discussion, members unanimously chose to phase in the increase.

Currently, citizens pay a $2 surcharge, which was added beginning in January 2009 to help pay for the Mollenkramer dredging. “That will come off the bills at the end of this year,” Kirschner said. So the hikes Batesville residents see on their bills will actually be less than what was indicated above.

The first reading of Ordinance 6-2019, authorizing the issuance of waterworks revenue bonds, was at the Sept. 9 Batesville City Council meeting.

In addition, the first reading of Ordinance 7-2019, which would amend Chapter 52 of the municipal code and establish the rates for 2020 and 2021 listed above, was also held that evening.

Council President Kevin Chaffee said, “I fully support the project. I’ve been pushing this for 30 years.”

Mayor Mike Bettice noted, “This is a project the city has been working on for years. Our great-great-grandfathers came up with the reservoir system, and it served us well for many years .... However, if we wanted to expand the reservoir system, IDEM (Indiana Department of Environmental Management) has a lot of regulations we need to follow.

“Years ago, someone suggested, ‘He who has the water rules the game.’ With this, we will set up the city of Batesville for years to come so our kids, grandkids and great-grandkids have a guaranteed source of water.”

Scott Hadler, Baker Tilly, Indianapolis, CPA, showed members a comparison of Batesville’s average water utility bills to other Indiana communities:

  • Rushville, $21.08
  • Connersville, Phase II, 2020, $22.55
  • Batesville, current, $25.40
  • Sunman, $29.33
  • Osgood, $30.08
  • Batesville, Phase I, $32.77
  • Greensburg, Phase II, 2020, $34.56
  • Hoosier Hills Regional Water District, $34.82
  • Shelbyville, $35.17
  • Batesville, Phase II, $37.36
  • Westport, $41.52
  • Glenwood, $45.02
  • Jennings Northwest Regional Water Utility, $53.96
  • Hope, $57.84
  • Decatur County Rural Water, $72.35

“Batesville’s rate increase is still in the middle of the pack .... We often see a leapfrog effect. A lot of them (these municipalities) are going through or will be going through a very similar situation of a rate increase as well.”

Kirschner added, “We’re softening our water, and those other cities have hard water .... This added some cost, but we felt like we needed the soft water.”

The second and final readings of the ordinances will be Oct. 14.

Diane Raver can be contacted at diane.raver@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 220114.