By MATT KOESTERS
Changes made to an ordinance increasing stormwater utility rates during its introduction at a Monday Clarksville Town Council meeting would have a big effect on commercial and residential customers in the town.
Currently, all stormwater customers in Clarksville pay $2.95 per estimated residential unit, or ERU. Residential customers pay $2.95, while larger customers pay a larger amount based on the amount of impervious surfaces on their properties, with an ERU being equal to 2,527 square feet. For example, the Green Tree Mall pays a monthly fee based on 763 ERUs, or $2,250.85 per month.
Under the proposal introduced to the council Monday, all customers would pay a flat rate of $2.55 and a rate per ERU of $3.45. That means residential customers would pay $6, an increase of 103 percent, while a large commercial customer like the Green Tree Mall would pay $2,634.90, a 17 percent increase.
But the rate increases proposed in the ordinance presented to the council were modified before they were accepted. Councilman John Gilkey instead asked that the flat rate be eliminated and the rate per ERU be increased to $4.05. That means that all customers, regardless of size, would see an increase of just more than 37 percent.
That means Green Tree Mall would pay $3,090.15 per month, which is $839,30 more than what it pays now and $455.55 more than it would pay under the proposal before it was modified.
Councilmen Gilkey, Paul Fetter, Tim Hauber and Paul Kraft voted for the change eliminating the flat fee, while Councilmen Bob Popp and Don Tetley voted against. Council President Bob Polston was absent from the meeting.
An analysis of the financial impact of the original stormwater rate plan was conducted by H.J. Umbaugh & Associates, an Indianapolis-based accounting firm. A call to John Seever with H.J. Umbaugh & Associates was not returned by press time.
Gilkey cited the need to consider low-income and fixed-income customers as his reason for eliminating the flat fee and increasing the ERU rate in an interview after the meeting.
“We’re trying to hold [costs] down as much as we possibly can, but this was one adjustment that I thought needed to be made to protect the residents of Clarksville,” Gilkey said.
Popp worried that the increase would make Clarksville unattractive to businesses.
“You have to be careful that if you get these rates on the businesses at such an extreme amount, it’s going to be very difficult to bring in new businesses,” Popp said after the meeting. “And of course, what I’m especially interested in right now is the Colgate area. Will this have a negative effect on the ... 125 acres that are down there that can be developed?”
In neighboring Jeffersonville, an ERU is equal to 2,500 square feet, with a price to nonresidential customers of $3.50 per ERU per month. Also defining an ERU as 2,500 square feet, New Albany charges $4.17 per ERU per month.
Kraft, the council’s vice president, said he doesn’t think the $4.05 per ERU fee will stop many businesses from coming to Clarksville.
“It is possible that that could happen, but I think we’re still under what I would call a prohibitive price,” Kraft said. “I don’t think that much difference is going to be made with that.”
Public hearings will be held on the stormwater and wastewater rate increase ordinances will be held at the council’s Aug. 5 meeting.