(LOOGOOTEE) - Loogootee water customers will not see a rate increase during the next year, while sewage rates will likely increase 10 percent across the board.
Tim Pinkham of the Washington Times Herald reports that the rate increase will take effect if the Loogootee City Council approves it during its Sept. 10 meeting. A public hearing on the increase request will be conducted at 6 p.m. Aug. 27 in council chambers.
Monday night, the council heard a summary of a comprehensive rate study conducted over the past two months on the city's water and wastewater departments. The summary was presented by certified public accountant John Seever, a partner with H.J. Umbaugh & Associates, Indianapolis, and attorney Brenda DeVries, with the law firm Bingham, Greenebaum and Doll, Indianapolis.
According to Seever, Loogootee has not raised its water and sewage rates for the past 10 years.
Seever said all the city's water and wastewater bonds, totaling about $6 million, will be refinanced at a lower interest rate, expected not to exceed 4 percent, resulting in an estimated savings of $600,000 to the city. He said this savings allowed the city to avoid a water rate increase and substantially reduced the necessary sewage rate increase.
Mayor Noel Harty said Tuesday afternoon the estimated $50,000 in fees for the companies involved in the rate study would be paid out of the savings.
He said three local banks have already expressed an interest in buying the new bonds, and he expects all the refinancing to be completed by sometime in November.
Seever said when he first met with the city's rate study committee, options called for water rate increases of between 12 and 20 percent, was well as sewage rate hikes of 23 to 30 percent. He said those increases were not acceptable to the committee, so a third alternative involving refinancing the bonds was suggested.
According to an information sheet provided by Seever, the average monthly residential sewage bill in Loogootee for 4,000 gallons is $43.10. With a 10-percent increase of $2.14, the monthly bill will eventually rise to $45.24. The proposed ordinance, which the council will consider in September, calls for a 5-percent increase in September and another 5 -percent increase in March 2013.
Here is how Loogootee's proposed new average monthly sewage rate of $45.24 compares with other cities in southern Indiana: Washington $31.17, Jasper $25.50, Oakland City, $50.35, Sandborn $61,40, Winslow $42.50, Carlisle $19.15, Mitchell $22.18, Switz City $31.59, Paoli $36.48 and Clay City $52.92.
On another water-related matter, the council tabled until September any action on a mandatory water conservation ordinance proposed by Utilities Manager Bo Wilson.
It would include fines for those wasting water during this time of drought. Between now and the next meeting, Wilson will discuss the wording of the ordinance with council members and City Attorney Mark Jones.
"We need enforcement for those who don't want to acknowledge we are in one of the worst droughts in history," Wilson said.
He is deeply concerned about the city's water supply, saying Loogootee's annual rainfall this year is 18 inches below normal. Wilson has taken action, including shutting off the CVS pharmacy sprinkler system and plans to do the same for the Little League fields.
Even though the ongoing drought has been a major topic on the news for months, Clerk-Treasurer Nancy Jones said some locals don't seem to realize it.
"For some reason, people in Loogootee think we have plenty of water," Jones said.
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