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Board approves staggered water, sewer rate increases

Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor, Editor, [email protected]

Corydon water and sewer rates will increase, just not in one full swoop, as initially discussed, but rather over a three-year period.

During its regular meeting Monday night, the town council, with a vote of 4-1 (Rachel Baelz opposed), approved incremental rate hikes of 45% in 2020, 15% in 2021 and 5% in 2022 for in-town residents. By the same 4-1 vote (Baelz opposed), the council passed the ordinance to raise rates for out-of-town customers by 7-1/2% in 2020 and by 7-1/2% in 2021.

Rand Heazlitt, the town’s manager, said that, after listening to customers at a public hearing on Oct. 7, the proposed rate increases was adjusted from a one-time increase of 75% for in-town users and a 15% surcharge to be passed on to out-of-town customers beginning next year to the staggered increases.

The new water rate will go into effect with bills payable Jan. 1, and the new sewer rate will launch July 1. Those will be same dates for the 2021 and 2022 increases, Heazlitt said.

Before the vote, Baelz asked Heazlitt several questions about the proposed rate hikes, including if the town had done a cost-of-service study, as suggested the previous week by Kevin Burch.

Heazlitt said it was looked into but would take considerable time and the cost would not be worth it due to the town’s rates already being low.

“We may lose the opportunity for interest rates on the bonds,” if they delayed passing the ordinances now, he added.

To Baelz’s question about why a 15% surcharge should be imposed on out-of-town customers, Heazlitt said a large part of the town’s operating costs are due to providing services to those customers.

“We kind of live in a bowl,” he said. “We have a 65-year-old plant with 100-year-old pipes” with waste being pushed downhill to the plant.

Regarding seeking a $10 million bond for projects to update the town’s infrastructure for water and sewer, Baelz asked how that amount was determined for the five-year time line.

Heazlitt replied it was based on “the best information available” for the necessary projects, some of which he hopes will be bid before the end of the year and others that will come along closer to the end of the time line. He added the bond is necessary because, while the town is solvent, there aren’t those kind of funds sitting around and reserve funds need to be kept on hand for unforeseen expenses.

“It will cost more to do several bonds rather than do it all at once,” Heazlitt said.

The improvement projects are necessary, Heazlitt said, for a couple of reasons, including to avoid fines imposed by the Indiana Dept. of Environmental Agency and to help reduce the chance of injuries to town employees, whom, he said, do “a great job of fixing things.”

For example, Heazlitt said it took six years for workman’s compensation insurance rates for the town to decrease following a claim.

Following the vote, which was 4-1 (Baelz opposed), to sell bonds for the projects, Heazlitt told the council, “I know it was a difficult decision, but I believe you made the right decision.”