MILFORD — Milford residents will see a 16 percent increase in their wastewater bills to be implemented in two phases during the course of the next year. The wastewater rate ordinance was passed at the monthly meeting of the Milford Town Council held Monday, Feb. 13.
The increase was deemed necessary to pay for state mandated upgrades to the Milford wastewater treatment plant. Ross Hagen of H.J. Umbaugh and Associates, who performed the rate study, reported the town needs $501,700 in revenue to meet its obligations on bond issuances from 2004 and 2017. Current revenue is $422,600, resulting in the 16.43 percent shortfall.
Hagen said the increase translates to about $6 per month for a household using 4,000 gallons, for a total bill of about $43 per month.
The ordinance passed with a noted objection by Milford resident Jay Urbin. “You’ve known for four years,” he said about the mandate, adding, “You can’t keep going back and raising rates.” Urbin also commented most houses use far more than 4,000 gallons. “They’re going to flip out when they get the water bill … it’s not fair to the community,” he stated.
Council President Dan Cochran informed Urbin the council and utilities employees worked with Wessler Engineering to cut the projected million dollar water treatment plant project in half.
Cochran went on to say past councils went 12 years without raising rates, “which was a big mistake.” In response to Urbin’s objection to the town’s profligate spending in other areas, Cochran said the council had made “significant cuts to departments” and much of the money spent was for infrastructure meant to reduce costs in the future, citing the new alarm system at the water tower as an example.
Councilman Doug Ruch added Milford is in the “bottom third of rates paid by users in the state” and the raises will put rates “closer to the halfway mark.”
The first rate hike takes place immediately. The second phase-in will take effect Jan. 1, 2018, after the bidding process on the plant construction project is complete.
The council also voted to amend its contract agreement with Wessler Engineering, bringing the agreement to $65,750 for total design of the wastewater plant, an $8,000 increase. The amendment resulted from design work on the sludge holding tank, expected to pay for itself by avoiding future hauling and disposal fees.
Another design change resulted from a switch to alum as the agent of phosphorous removal. Alum will require a bulk tank and will be stored for a year. This change is also expected to be paid off within five years. “We don’t want to rely on haulers,” said Mark Brubaker, plant operator.
Other agenda items from Monday night’s meeting are as follows:
The council approved a motion to enter into a new agreement with Lutheran EMS. The new contract, negotiated after it was discovered the town of South Whitley was not paying a contribution, steps down to 50 percent in 2017, 75 percent in 2018 and zero contributions from both town and Van Buren Township in 2019. “The service stays the same,” reported Joellen Free, town clerk.
In police reports, Town Marshal Rich Miotto announced his retirement, effective March 31, after nearly 25 years of service. Miotto thanked the council to which Cochran replied, “It’s we who are thanking you.” Miotto recommended Deputy Travis Marsh as replacement, approved by the council in a vote.
A nine-step hiring process was also approved to find another police officer.
The council approved $504 to be spent on new Glock 22 pistols for the Milford police.
A motion to adopt a Narcan policy also passed. The spray is used in the event of opiate overdose.
In utilities reports, Superintendent Steven Marquart informed the council bids for water tower restoration will open at 2 p.m. Feb. 22.
Pending that opening, and the bids coming in under budget, the council also voted to purchase a variable frequency drive pump from Peerless Pump Company for $14,890.
The council also agreed to enter into an agreement with Living Waters for chemical systems and a spare motor at an amount not to exceed $7,890.
The last water tower-related expenditure was to Ferguson Enterprises for a test port and blow-off hydrant for $2,042.
As the Main Street water line project nears completion, the council voted to allot an additional $843 to the general water fund for the purchase of three hydrants at $50,403. Marquart stressed the importance of the hydrants to public safety.
Another motion carried to approve $3,995 for preventative maintenance on Milford’s street sweeper.
Ordinance 2017-3 approved the appropriation of local road and bridge grant funds. The town received $41,911.67.