Water rates to increase in Jasper, FerdinandFebruary 20, 2019
By ALLEN LAMAN and LEANN BURKE
Two area municipalities, the City of Jasper and Town of Ferdinand, took steps Tuesday to increase water rates
Jasper residents might notice a bump in their water bill prices beginning in May.
The city has proposed a water rate increase, with a 12 percent hike possibly going into effect in three months. The Jasper Utility Service Board approved the rate increase at its meeting Tuesday night, and the proposal now heads to the Jasper Common Council for readings, a public hearing and ultimate approval.
Bud Hauersperger, the city’s general utilities manager, said residential customers would see a 0.105 cent per gallon increase on the water portion of their bill if the resolution goes into effect. That would equate to roughly $4 more per payment, as the average bill would rise from $35.01 to $39.22.
The last increase in Jasper rates was four years ago when the city implemented a 17 percent hike.
Since then, operating expenses have increased by approximately $500,000. The cost of chemicals and maintenance at the 17-year-old water plant are going up, and other high-dollar, water-related projects are being paid off. Inflation has also become a factor.
“It’s just little things here and there,” Hauersperger said. “Start adding them up. We’re not making any profit. So, it’s here’s our expenses, [and] this is how much we need to meet those expenses. That’s how we come up with how much we need to increase our rates.”
Among the recent construction endeavors the rate increase will cover is the ongoing U.S. 231 water main upgrade, the installation of ultraviolet water purification equipment at the filtration plant and the Third Avenue water main replacement project.
The Utility Service Board enlisted H.J. Umbaugh & Associates of Indianapolis last year to complete a water rate study that led to the increase recommendation. Umbaugh initially suggested the increase be for 17 percent, but the final number came in at 12 percent.
“The [water] committee did discuss at length the proposed water rate increase,” said Water Commissioner Rick Stradtner. “We take this very seriously and I think have done a number of things, fairly creatively over the years, with our rate studies to try to keep them as reasonable as possible.”
He continued: “The committee feels the city is being proactive in regard to keeping up with infrastructure and plan improvements. That’s always a prime, prime thing that we look at in these rate studies.”
The Jasper Common Council will hold the first reading of the rate increase resolution at its meeting tonight at City Hall, 610 Main Street. That meeting will begin at 7 p.m.
Ferdinand, Huntingburg, Ferdinand, St. Anthony and Birdseye have all either approved or discussed water rate increases in recent months.
Water customers in the Town of Ferdinand will soon see their rates increase.
The town council approved an ordinance to raise the town’s water rates $2 per every 1,000 gallons of water used. The average customer in Ferdinand uses about 4,000 gallons of water monthly, equalling an $8 increase and taking their bills from about $29 per month to $37 per month. Customers will see the increase reflected on their March utility bills, which are due April 10.
One major impetus for Ferdinand’s rate increase is a rate increase from The Patoka Lake Regional Water and Sewer District, which sells the water Ferdinand’s water utility distributes to its customers. Patoka’s rate increase will be 15.7 percent and will go into effect March 1. It will affect several area communities.
The rate increase will also help Ferdinand prepare for coming maintenance projects on water infrastructure and rebuild the coffers after several waterline replacements in recent years.
“What’s also driving this is that in the last four to five years, we’ve spent almost a half million dollars in waterline installations,” said Council President Ken Sicard.
Looking ahead, town officials know they will have to do maintenance work on the town’s two water towers, with early estimates at about $500,000 per tower. Town officials have been working with Suez Advanced Solutions of Perry, Georgia, to plan for the maintenance. Evansville and Patoka Lake also work with the company.
Although the water towers are a priority right now, more waterline replacements are also on the horizon.
“We have to rebuild the cash supply so we can continue on,” Sicard said.
Although the current increase is significant — 27 percent for the average customer — rate increases in the town have been rare. According to The Herald archives, Ferdinand last raised its water rates in 2009.
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