MILFORD — Milford citizens can expect another rate increase in the next year as the town council comes to grips with the economic realities of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s new wastewater regulations, according to John Julien of Umbaugh and Associates.
Julien was at Milford Town Hall Monday, July 11, to present the council a report outlining the town’s financial situation in light of a pending bond issuance, necessary to pay for the roughly $1,000,000 in upgrades to the town’s wastewater plant.
The study found Milford’s 2013 wastewater rate hike, which took effect in three phases, was roughly $50,000 shy of expected revenues in 2015, at $417,000 instead of the expected $460,000. Julien could not pinpoint how this occurred, but was quick to rule out any malfeasance. He cited “changes in the customer base” and reduced usage as possibilities. Whatever the reason, said Julien, “The key is how we go forward.”
Milford’s utilities are “just treading water,” Julien stated. In order to create the necessary bond coverage, the margin expected by bond purchasers, he believes Milford must do two things. Step one is to “find out about revenues up until a year ago.” Step two is add another 15 percent rate increase. This is because even if the missing $50,000 per year is recovered, the town is still $78,000 short of the necessary yearly revenue.
Milford is still paying off an existing bond as well, and Julien recommended “wrapping around” that bond, saving as much as $60,000 in fees, which he characterized as “killing two birds with the same stone.”
Council member Doug Ruch asked Julien if the town is in danger of being unable to get the bond issue. The town’s good credit rating, said Julien, makes that highly unlikely.
In the meantime, Umbaugh will work with town treasurer Joellen Free to determine how to “figure out the billings” to capture the expected $50,000.
Other items on the agenda were as follows:
Free presented the council with the first reading of the 2017 budget proposal. The budget totals $1,644,461, up 5 percent from last year.
Leon Jackson, Norfolk Southern Corporation’s manager of grade crossing safety, based in Atlanta, Ga., presented himself to the council. The railroad company is looking for ways to eliminate redundant crossings and, according to Jackson, will help pay for their removal.
A public discussion on the elimination of railroad crossings in Milford will be held at the next public town council meeting 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 8.
Two insurance representatives, Tom Hicks of AFLAC and Lisa Frazetta-Manning, representing Unum, presented the council with various options for short-term disability coverage for Milford’s town employees.
Council president Dan Cochran called short-term disability a “hole we’ve had for some time,” recently brought to light by town marshal Rich Miotto’s medical leave. The employees’ health plan only covers 30 days of medical leave. “This would’ve been nice,” Miotto said.
Ruch noted the council cannot afford to cover 100 percent of the disability. However, the council is willing to cover 50 percent, according to Cochran.
The employees were offered a wide range of options and will decide in the coming month.
In police reports, Miotto expressed his thanks to the K21 Foundation for providing new heart defibrillators to the department.
A motion was passed to purchase signs for the boat launch on the south side of Waubee Lake Park, which is meant for boat trailers only. At least one sign was stolen and boaters have had difficulties maneuvering around cars parked in the wrong lot.
Another motion was passed to promote Travis Marsh to the position of deputy chief. Part-time money will be budgeted toward his promotion for the remainder of the year.
In utilities reports, acting superintendent Steve Marquart informed the council of visits to local businesses to enforce ordinances concerning grease traps. “Four places didn’t have grease traps,” he reported. The businesses will receive another visit in 30 days.
The council passed a motion allowing $700 to be spent on wireless cameras, to be installed at Waubee Lake Park to help prevent vandalism. Marquart called it an inexpensive way to deal with the problem. Town employees will be able to check on the park, which is still without a lifeguard, remotely.
A motion was passed by the council allowing wastewater credits for additional water used by a commercial customer. The customer, who used a hose instead of a sprinkler system to water its lawn, requested credits for May and June, even after being told the reason for its May bill, totalling about $900. Therefore, the council, which had no obligations in the matter legally, only credited the first month.