Elwood is getting ready to go under a painful construction project to update its sewer and water works to be in compliance with state and federal regulations; painful because of quite an increase in utility rates for Elwood residents.
Elwood officials would probably rather spend money on more exciting items, but the truth is this sewer project needs to be done. The city's system is antiquated, built in the 1940s and updated in the 1970s. It's a combined sewer overflow system that allows storm water runoff into the sewage system, which can quickly overload capacity, and that might mean that water is not clean enough when it leaves.
CSOs, as they're called, are no longer allowed. Nowadays, cities and towns have to keep sewage and storm water separated, which is what Elwood is undertaking.
Mayor Ron Arnold and city council members recently passed an ordinance to raise sewage rates for Phase 1 of the project, and another raise will go into effect for Phase 2, the actual construction of the new system is scheduled for early 2014. The city hopes to have the new system online sometime in 2015.
Regardless of whether residents want to pay this increase — and most probably don't — it has to be done. As much as this is necessary to comply with regulations, it is also an economic development tool. Everything that results in an improvement for the city makes it easier to sell to prospective businesses looking for a place to set up shop. A state-of-the-art water system lets businesses know that there won't be any problems receiving or sending water and businesses, especially manufacturing, use a lot of water.
Plus there is always the practical side of being between a rock and hard place. Should Elwood continue to defy regulations, the state and feds will have no choice but to start levying fines. Those fines would be on top of the cost of a new plant, as Arnold points out, and rates would go even higher.
The city is making the right move to get this work done. Ultimately, it all comes down to planning for Elwood's future, which takes foresight and money. Elwood city officials are making good use of both with this project.