Thursday, January 20, 2005

Frank Discussions at the First Meeting of Sewer Districts

Frank Discussions at the First Meeting of Sewer Districts
19 January 2005

Dearborn County Plan Commission Working Session on Sewers was called to improve communication with utility providers and gain a better understanding of current infrastructure capacities and limitations. The Plan Commission and staff hoped to identify methods to better coordinate planning efforts as well. Travis Miller served as Coordinator

Approximately 40 people attended- including Plan Commission members, Master Plan advisory board members, citizens, and representatives from all the public sewer treatment districts in the county. Mel Davis (Lawrenceburg), Steve Lampert (Greendale), Randy Turner (Aurora), represented SDRSD. Dillsboro, St. Leon, Moores Hill were also present. HVL was represented as a private utility. LMH was not present. Several members of the new Dearborn County Sewer Board were also present. (Mike Hankins, Brett Fehrman, Rodney Dennerline, and Greg Volmer) Doug Baer and John Grace from the Health Dept. were present.

Sammy Gutzwiller of HVL (VRUC) noted their actual sewer coverage area extended into Rock Mountain Estates on Georgetown Rd.Mel Davis reported that Lawrenceburg desires centralized sewers and have set aside dollars and impact fees for that purpose. They are looking to expand to SR148 and possibly beyond towards Manchester.

The County Sewer Board was in agreement that a regional centralized sewer was better than a hodge-podge of package plants. The County Sewer Board was concerned with what the Plan Commission would do if a package plant were proposed in an area not likely to be served by sewers. It should be noted that though Indiana law allows these package plants, they are not the preferred route and that the county master plan clearly states that development should proceed from where the EXISTING infrastructure exists and outward from that area.

Dan Batta asked who would coordinate this to make this happen.

Greg Volmer stated that he personally thought the largest provider in the county- SDRSD- should be contracted to do the management for the county sewers.

Mel Davis said SDRSD has the ability to act as bonder for these projects and has a $3300 impact fee for homeowners and a testing fee for developers.

Rodney Dennerline said that the COST of the package treatment plants versus running a line to SDRSD would strongly influence providers to regionalize rather than do the package plants.
Pumps and pressurized systems versus gravity systems were discussed and maintenance issues. Most districts currently have the homeowners owning the pumps and contract with the district to service them.

Regionalization is best- IDEM only wants to inspect so many plants, therefore it’s wise to consolidate.

At this point the discussion shifted to VRUC (HVL) and their attempts to get IDEM approval for their own sewage treatment plant. They were refused by the Bond Bank for funding. (They are not a public entity.) She stated that it required unanimous approval by L-bg, G-dale, Aurora, and Seagrams for anyone to join SDRSD. They were missing one vote. Later it was determined that they did get that final vote but backed down for other “reasons.”

It seemed clear in this discussion that the factors holding up HVL acceptance into SDRSD are psychological rather than political.

SDRSD needs about $2.5 million for an entity to buy in and recoup their initial investments minus depreciation costs. This number is FAR cheaper than building and maintaining another treatment plant. The environmental concerns from the continued and sporadic dumping of effluent by HVL into our waterways would seem to demonstrate the urgency to settle this matter. (Pictures of this have circulated in several offices in the county.) Lastly, it would seem that HVL (on a larger scale) is very similar to the issues surrounding High Ridge Estates. Both are in the county. The County Sewer Board needs to consider paying to join SDRSD and drawing another part of their district around HVL. The bond bank would loan to the county- as the bank is getting more funds this year and the county IS a public entity. The County does the right thing, because their area is expanding to accurately serve the most developed portion of their jurisdiction. HVL wins because they are now served in a more cost effective manner in the long run.

The question is WHO will help lead the effort?

The commissioners need to send their letter regarding VRUC showing this as a solution. The Sewer Board needs to contact IDEM and state that they are willing to take over. And both commissioners and sewer board members need to approach the Bond Bank for funding.

As several stated at this meeting at the end, the environmental concerns are paramount. They also were strongly in favor of the master plan statements regarding development from infrastructure outward. They felt they could accommodate the county development- both residential and commercial/industrial in a cost effective manner as we follow the principles of pacing and placing development with infrastructure in mind.

All seemed willing to meet again, which was a welcome sign. In light of the master plan discussions, this meeting showed that the first step toward county –wide collaboration of utility providers is possible. It also showed that what the advisory board wanted was also what the utility providers seem to want – cooperation and regionalization of utilities.

Christine Brauer Mueller
Lawrenceburg Township

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