Huntingburg approves 18% water hike


HUNTINGBURG — The Huntingburg Common Council approved an increase in water rates Tuesday evening after an hourlong public hearing, at which residents asked questions about the need for the water improvements the increase would cover.

The 18% increase will help pay for a State Revolving Loan that will be used to make improvements to the water system. Of that, $4.8 million will be used to make improvements to the water filter plant so that it can ultimately produce more water. Another $1.4 million will be used to replace water mains under 11 blocks of U.S. 231 that are at least 95 years old; those mains will be moved out from under the road and to the side, under sidewalks. A solar field will be installed for $470,000, which will help decrease future electric costs at the plant.

The average water customer using 4,000 gallons of water will see about a $7 increase in their monthly water bill, rate consultant Otto “Buzz” Krohn said.

Related: Officials explain need for water rate jump

Resident Cody Beadles said that an 18% increase is surprising. “Are we making sure we’re being as efficient as possible?” he asked. “Or are we just throwing money at this to get something done? People need to know that this is the best way to go.”

These issues have been studied for the last year and nine months, Water Superintendent Gary Meyerholtz responded. “This is our best solution,” he said.

Resident Greg Painter asked several questions, including if there was a long-term infrastructure plan for the utility and if conservation methods were in place. Mayor Denny Spinner said each utility has a long-term plan and that the water utility has a 10-year plan in place. These improvements are part of that plan.

Another question asked was about grant funding. Krohn explained that the city doesn’t qualify for state grants because the city’s average residential income threshold is too high.

Beadles asked if the city considered purchasing all the water the city needs from the Patoka Lake Regional Water and Sewer District. City Attorney Phil Schneider said there are contractual limits on how much can be bought from Patoka.

Also, Meyerholtz said, “We can produce water cheaper than purchasing it, 25 cents (to produce) on the dollar (to purchase).”

Painter asked if there were any figures on the cost of waiting to make the improvements. Krohn said that costs would increase about 4% each year, which adds about another $350,000 each year to the project.

“If we got all water from Patoka and made no improvements, we could burn through the $8 million in about eight years,” he added.

Resident Linda Summers, who is a former councilwoman, said she understood the need to do the improvements now.

“I am 100% in favor of this,” she said. “We should’ve done this already. If we don’t do it now, we will regret it. We have a very good system and good people to take care of it.”

The council also adopted a bond ordinance to authorize up to $8 million in loan bonds.

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