Town plans rate hike; 30% bill boost would pay for sewer plant

Elizabethtown residents could see a sewer rate increase taking effect this month under a proposal that would boost monthly bills by $10.

That’s nearly a 31 percent increase.

The town is considering its first increase since 1997 to help pay for its sewer plant and future improvements that may be needed, said Fred Barnett, town council president. If approved, customers’ bills would be boosted to $42.50 a month with gradual increases of 50 cents thereafter.

The increase, which is set for a final vote during the town council’s 6 p.m. Monday meeting, is needed to prevent the town from continuing to dip into its reserves to pay for its sewer plant, Barnett said.

The council gave initial approval to the rate increase during first reading of the ordinance during its Dec. 4 meeting.

Money from an escrow account has been used to pay off a 20-year loan totaling more than $400,000, which is set to be paid off at the end of 2019.

“We have to run a sewer plant that breaks even,” Barnett said. “We knew we had to do an increase at some point; we didn’t know when.”

A Six Sigma analysis conducted by Cummins had evaluated the treatment plant in Elizabethtown, said Robert Tertocha, a regulatory compliance manager with Cummins and a town councilman.

“It was not self-sustaining,” Tertocha said.

Other than capital improvements, Tertocha said the hike will help cover maintenance and additional mandates that may be required in the future. If approved by the council, the 50-cent increases would likely be re-evaluated every three years, he said.

“It’s not about raising money. It’s about being financially responsible and planning ahead,” Tertocha said.

An evaluation of the town’s finances 18 months ago, in addition to a partnership with Columbus City Utilities, also showed that the increase was needed in order to pay for equipment and maintenance of the sewer system over the next 10 to 20 years, Barnett said.

Customers will likely see the rate increase applied to their bill in February or March, he said.

If you go

What: Elizabethtown Town Council meeting

When: 6 p.m. Monday

Where: 104 West St., Elizabethtown

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