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Jeffersonville Sewer Board members, including Mayor Mike Moore, are correct in asserting that the River Ridge Development Authority should pay toward the expansion of the north wastewater treatment plant.

Without the expansion, River Ridge will reach capacity in a few years on its Jeffersonville end. The commerce park will be unable to accept new businesses, potentially costing the region thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in investment.

The sewer board is asking that River Ridge foot $12 million of the $36 million project, which is fair. But the action the board took last week was unwarranted and sends the wrong message.

Freezing new sewer tap-ins for industrial clients until River Ridge approves funding for the expansion is the sewer utility’s way of strong-arming the commerce park’s five-member board into paying toward the expansion.

River Ridge Executive Director Jerry Acy said last week the authority will likely contribute to both the expansion of the Jeffersonville plant and the construction of a Charlestown sewer facility. The public action taken by the sewer board only muddies the waters as the two sides attempt to reach a deal.

And both sides need each other. River Ridge depends on Jeffersonville’s utilities, police and fire protection. Jeffersonville benefits from the jobs and investment spurred by the sprawling commerce park, as well as the numerous businesses that have opened near River Ridge over the last decade.

When the leaders of large industries are considering sites, they don’t want any uncertainty. They want to know that a potential location has everything the industry needs to operate, and sewer capacity is one of the top items on the checklist.

The sewer board’s action creates uncertainty. While it’s hard to imagine that the sides won’t reach a deal, could River Ridge and our region lose a major industry in the interim?

The sewer board didn’t get its way last year when it asked the Jeffersonville City Council to approve a series of rate increases on developers and out-of-city customers to foot the expansion. Multiple council members took issue with the sewer board’s approach.

The tactic of freezing industrial credits for the north plant is another unwise approach.

The sewer and River Ridge boards should resolve this issue quickly. Jeffersonville is one of the most fiscally sound cities in Indiana, and River Ridge is enjoying record growth.

Neither side should risk the future over a funding dispute when both sides have plenty of money and plenty to gain by playing nice.

But Jeffersonville’s officials should also consider the message they’re sending when taking such actions. No one likes to be bullied.

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