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November 12, 2013

Sellersburg water rates to more than double

104 percent increase finally approved by town council

SELLERSBURG — No Sellersburg residents were on hand to speak against a 104 percent water rate increase approved by the town council Monday night.

The town’s water customers will see their bills jump from $13.25 to $27 for about 5,000 gallons worth of water usage. Unanimous approval was granted for the rate increase, in part to fund an $8.5 million bond Sellersburg sought to make repairs to the town’s deteriorating water system. Along with the upgrades, the bond will also help cover the costs of Sellersburg’s purchase of Riverside Water Co.

The vote came about 10 months after the town council began looking into raising the town’s rates to cover repairs to its system, but the need had been expressed much longer than that.

“This is something we’ve been working on for five years,” said Town Council President Paul Rhodes. “It has been a system that has not actually paid for itself. We’ve been using money to subsidize it out of our general fund and it’s time for the water system to pay for itself so we can use the general fund money for something else.”

Part of the delay was to determine what the new water rates would need to be to cover the upgrades to the system and to reach an agreement to purchase Riverside Water Co. for $2.5 million. The purchase of Riverside Water Co. adds about 1,200 new customers to the town’s current 3,400 water customers, adds water capacity and increases future bonding capacity for the town. It also allows Sellersburg to set up a capital improvement fund for future utility repairs and improvements.

Town Councilman Terry Langford added the water system hadn’t been upgraded since the early 1990s. Sellersburg has already started work refurbishing the two water tanks in town — painting them inside and out.

“If you’ve noticed the tanks in town, it’s a good example of the rest of the system,” Rhodes said. “It needed a lot of attention.”

Among the other improvements outlined that will be undertaken with the bond — which also was unanimously approved — was the drilling of two new supply wells, construction of a new booster station, a new 500,000-gallon water storage tank and constructing a new water filtration plant.

Despite the jump in Sellersburg’s water rates, Deen Rogers, certified public accountant with Umbaugh and Associates, said the town still has some of the lowest rates in the area. Umbaugh and Associates was contracted to help set the water rates for the town in order to cover the bond and allow a capital improvement fund to be established.

In addition to the rate increase, the monthly fire protection charge of $4.38 per month will begin appearing on residents’ bills.

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