Utilities budget to increase by 1.5 percent next year

City officials have approved a $14.3 million budget for Columbus City Utilities department next year that includes several capital projects.

The utilities budget for 2018 is $208,742 higher than this year’s budget, an increase of 1.5 percent. Columbus City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution approving the budget after a brief presentation by utilities director Keith Reeves.

Reeves said the city is planning several projects, including a new centrifuge at its wastewater plant and the replacement of a pumping station near 17th Street and Haw Creek Avenue. Those two projects are estimated to cost $4.77 million, Reeves said.

The city’s pumping station was constructed in the 1950s and is undersized for its needs, Reeves said. He said the department plans to seek bids sometime in January with construction on the new pumping station expected to begin in spring or summer on the $3 million project.

“It’s undersized,” he said. “It’s hard to make things work, so it really needs to be replaced.”

The city utilities department also plans painting upgrades at its water plant at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds that are estimated to cost $150,000, while improvements to the control valving at its Lincoln Park water plant are also planned, in addition to replacing other equipment.

Upgrades to the city’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning at its McClure Road offices will cost $82,000, according to the city.

Residents can expect to see their water and sewer rates stay the same for 2018, although Reeves said the rates will have to be increased at some point to help pay for additional capital projects. The city hasn’t increased its sewer rate since 2009, while its water rate has remained unchanged since 1992.

Columbus’ water and sewer rates remain among the lowest in the state among municipalities with populations of 25,000 or more, Mayor Jim Lienhoop said.

“We’re one of the best deals in Indiana,” Lienhoop said.

However, he said rate hikes are inevitable to help pay for capital projects.

“We’re going to need additional revenue to do that,”┬áCity Councilman Tom Dell.

Well update

Reeves also said three city wells will remain offline as an investigation continues after an E. coli contamination incident at the fairgrounds earlier this year. Two other wells south of the city’s treatment plant were also taken out of service in November after the chemical 1,4 dioxane was discovered.

Proposals for consultants to assist the city with its investigation will go out early next year, Reeves said.

Author photo
Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com