JEFFERSONVILLE — The Jeffersonville Sewer Board applied pressure to the River Ridge Development Authority on Thursday over an ongoing issue of funding a $36 million expansion of the north wastewater treatment plant.
The River Ridge Commerce Park depends largely on the north plant for sewer service. But under the action approved unanimously Thursday, no new industrial customers will be allowed to tap into the plant’s diminishing capacity until a funding agreement to expand the facility is reached.
“It’s my opinion that we have both the right and the responsibility to protect our ratepayers in terms of infrastructure for our system and providing financing for the department,” Jeffersonville sewer board member Bill Saegesser said.
According to Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore, who is the president of the sewer board, the utility has asked River Ridge’s board to foot $12 million of the plant expansion. The city intends to use some of its federal American Rescue Plan funds toward the project, having already OK’d some of the money to foot design.
Jeffersonville is also hoping it will garner funds from the region’s $50 million allotment of Indiana Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, or READI, grants to pay for the sewer facility expansion.
Moore said River Ridge and Our Southern Indiana — the local authority charged with oversight of the READI grants — should recognize the importance of the project. The plant serves residential, commercial and industrial users, and River Ridge’s future growth on its Jeffersonville property depends on available sewer capacity, Moore said.
“I think we all benefit from River Ridge, but I also think River Ridge benefits from Jeffersonville,” Moore said.
Jerry Acy, executive director of the River Ridge Development Authority, said Thursday the organization backed the expansion of the Jeffersonville plant and the construction of a Charlestown sewer facility in the local READI application.
He said both projects are significant to River Ridge, which is home to more than 60 companies and over 10,000 employees.
“If you don’t have capacity, it can slow down development, there’s no doubt about that. So we know it’s critical to get both plants built and expanded,” Acy said.
The five-member River Ridge board ultimately decides on funding such requests, but Acy indicated Thursday there’s support for assisting Jeffersonville and Charlestown, though no sums have been finalized.
“We’re committed to supporting the efforts, not just for the grant applications, but we anticipate participating some in assisting with the funding of both of those projects,” Acy said.
Expanding the north wastewater treatment plant has been an ongoing issue involving multiple parties for more than a year.
The Jeffersonville Sewer Board initially sought rate increases for non-city residential customers along with hikes on tap-in fees for developers to foot the expansion. That idea was voted down by the Jeffersonville City Council last year.
River Ridge and Jeffersonville continue to enjoy growth, with the commerce park again adding major companies in 2021 including Kroger Health, Affinity and Communications Test Design in 2021.
River Ridge also welcomed OmniTRAX last year, helping the park’s development of rail infrastructure and services.
Jeffersonville also continues to experience residential and commercial growth, and with the growth comes the need for additional utility capacity.
The River Ridge Development Authority recently moved into a new headquarters — the first tenant of the site’s office park. The goal is to attract more office clients to the park, adding another layer of development on a site that’s continuing to attract major industrial businesses.
Already needing added sewer capacity for future additions, River Ridge is also partnering with the state to increase water access for the park.
Jeffersonville has brought several new residential subdivisions on line over the past few years, which also put a premium on infrastructure and sewer capacity.
Moore said he’s responsible for Jeffersonville’s residents, which is why he supported continuing to allow added capacity for new residential and commercial customers in the utility’s jurisdiction.
Moore wants the authority’s board to consider using its tax-increment financing tool to fund the $12 million contribution to the plant expansion. Jeffersonville already provides police and fire protection to River Ridge, so its makes sense for the authority to support the sewer project financially, he continued.
When asked if the sewer board’s decision would affect any current plans for industrial expansion on the Jeffersonville portion of the River Ridge complex, Moore said he didn’t believe it would.
“But obviously, River Ridge is in control of fixing that problem,” he said.