Birdseye Council mulls utility matters


BIRDSEYE — The all-new Birdseye Town Council spent the bulk of the members’ first meeting Thursday night mulling utility matters.

At night’s end, President Bret Eckert and members Mary Ann Cummings and Roy Partenheimer tabled a pending water rate hike to give themselves more time to sharpen their pencils and decide how to pass on increases by the Patoka Lake Regional Water and Sewer District and St. Anthony Water Corp.

They also decided to mail residents a copy of the town’s sewer ordinance, along with a reminder that sump pumps and gutter downspouts cannot empty into the town’s wastewater system.

Those notices relate to a recent state sewer system inspection that confirmed Birdseye must keep working to address inflow and infiltration problems.

The town is permitted to pump 80,000 gallons of wastewater per day to the sewage lagoons south of town. On a normal, dry day, Utility Superintendent Bob Morrow said, the town sends 35,000 to 40,000 gallons of wastewater to the lagoons.

On Wednesday, days after the last rain, Birdseye pumped 176,000 gallons to the lagoons, which reflects the scope of the community’s inflow and infiltration issues.

Morrow responded to a November inspection summary and noncompliance letter by telling the Indiana Department of Environmental Management what steps Birdseye had taken to resolve various cited issues and what steps were planned to be taken.

When it came to infiltration of the system, Morrow detailed plans to notify customers and said Birdseye would hunt for cross-connections and leaks.

That violation response wasn’t good enough for IDEM’s Office of Water Quality. Morrow told council members Thursday of additional correspondence asking specifically how Birdseye will look for infiltration.

IDEM indicated the planned mailing to customers will be a start, Morrow said, but the state wants to know if Birdseye plans to hire an outside company for an inflow and infiltration study. The state is asking if Birdseye will televise pipes and do smoke and dye testing and how much of the system will be concentrated on, Morrow said.

The town utility superintendent said he has yet to send an official reply but he is already looking into how to go about addressing the state’s concerns.

“That’s something we’re really going to have to concentrate on this year,” he said.

When it comes to Birdseye’s water rate, council members discussed the possibility of an increase in the 20-to-25-percent range to cover increases being passed on March 1 by the town’s wholesale suppliers (Patoka Lake and St. Anthony Water Corp).

Patoka will raise its rate to Birdseye by 39 cents per 1,000 gallons of water. St. Anthony Water Corp. is raising its charge to the town by 77 cents per 1,000 gallons, according to Clerk-Treasurer Brittany Schepers.

And, Utility Clerk Donna King pointed out that the town had been talking about the need for a rate increase before the wholesale suppliers announced hikes.

At present, Birdseye’s minimum charge, before tax, is $14.86 per 2,000 gallons.

On an up note, Birdseye’s search for water system leaks is paying off.

Between Nov. 10 and Dec. 10, according to Morrow, Birdseye purchased 1,393,000 gallons of water wholesale and sold 1,279,000 gallons during the same period. That system loss of less than 10 percent is the least during his tenure, Morrow said.

“Our water loss has went way down,” Morrow said. “As long as we keep on top of that, on the water side, we should be fine.”

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