The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local News

April 12, 2010

Residents protest Edgewood wastewater plant

Council presents options to SRO crowd

EDGEWOOD, Ind. — More than 200 people filled West Anderson Church of God on Monday, a crowd that at times turned angry in its questioning of the Edgewood Town Council on its plans to compensate for a wastewater treatment rate hike imposed by the city of Anderson.

Nearly all the residents who spoke to the council at the meeting, many of them from outside town limits, protested the town’s recommended option of building its own wastewater treatment facility to decrease dependency on Anderson’s plant. According to preliminary plans, the new facility would be built on property along Eighth Street Road between county roads 400 West and 500 West outside Edgewood and Anderson limits.

Terry Ayers owns the property across the street from where the new wastewater treatment plant would be constructed. He said county residents like him were upset about Edgewood building its plant outside the town.

“It is morally and ethically very distasteful to us that you select to solve Edgewood’s problems by building a wastewater treatment plant on a site outside the town limits,” Ayers said to loud cheers and applause from the audience.

Town officials’ promises that they would not harm the wells of county residents near the plant or force them to connect to the town’s wastewater system did little to calm the residents, who were concerned that their property values would plummet if a plant were placed in the area.

Luann Lieurance lives three houses down from where the plant would go and said she had been trying to refinance her house but it would be difficult with the plant nearby. Lieurance asked town officials why they wanted to build a new wastewater treatment facility with a declining population.

The new plant is one of three options presented by the town for dealing with a rate increase imposed by Anderson starting in 2009. When Edgewood’s contract with Anderson for use of its wastewater plant expired, so did the $1.11 per thousand gallons rate that Edgewood residents had enjoyed for 20 years. Since last year, Anderson has been gradually increasing Edgewood’s rates to $3, $6 and eventually to the $8.22 rate paid by Anderson residents.

“Up until a few years ago, that cost was quite low,” said Marty Wessler of Indianapolis engineering firm Wessler & Associates. “You probably were underpaying. They probably weren’t charging you near enough to cover the cost to treat it.”

Over roughly the same period, Edgewood has increased its own rates for the part of the sewer system it owns to get the wastewater to Anderson. Starting at $4 per thousand gallons, Edgewood’s portion of residents’ wastewater bills now is at $7.75.

To compensate for the increased rates from Anderson, Edgewood town officials have explored alternatives including building the town’s own wastewater treatment plant, connecting to Lapel’s wastewater treatment plant or continuing to treat its sewage through Anderson’s plant.

Wessler & Associates said in its preliminary engineering report that building the town’s own plant would be the cheapest option in the long run, with about $7.2 million in construction costs and $300,000 a year to operate.

“You’re in control of your own future; historically, your rate increases will be a little bit less,” Wessler said.

It would cost about $7.12 million to connect to Lapel’s wastewater treatment plant, including upgrading that facility and building lift stations and force main to get the sewage to Lapel, Wessler said. The option would include about $500,000 a year in operating costs.

Staying with the Anderson plant would cost about $970,000 a year at the $8.22 rate, but Wessler said residents could expect further rate increases as the city looks to implements its long-term control plan to combat combined sewer overflow events. The current rate hikes are for the $38 million Phase I of the project, but Phase II is expected to cost $35 million and Phase III $87 million, Wessler said.

“What’s going to happen in five years even Anderson can’t tell us what’s going to happen,” he said. “Everyone can see the writing on the wall; with continuing to go to Anderson the rates are going to go up and up.”

Wessler said in searching for a site for a potential plant, the council had to find a three- to five-acre site out of the flood plain, not within 500 feet of a house and north of the town as the sewage flows northward.

Edgewood Council President Patty Farran said if there had been open land in Edgewood, she would gladly build the plant next to her house.

Councilman Art Leak said he didn’t want to see the plant in someone else’s backyard and if he found out the plant would have a negative impact on residents he would vote against it.

Former Edgewood clerk-treasurer Gene Wright urged Edgewood ratepayers to ignore the rate increases on their bills and simply pay the amount they had always been paying.

“They cannot justify charging us for the separation of their sewer system,” Wright said of Anderson. “We’ve got them over a barrel if we just use it.”

State Rep. Terri Austin, who represents parts of Edgewood, said the town, along with Anderson and Madison County, should seek an impartial mediator to resolve the issue.

“To ask people to incur a $7 million to $8 million capital building project at this time ... really does not make sense at this time,” Austin said.

Contact Aleasha Sandley: 640-4805, aleasha.sandley@heraldbulletin.com.

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