MILFORD —Utilities once again dominated Milford Town Council’s meeting agenda Monday evening, April 8. Among the issues tackled was a proposed wastewater rate hike, the second in five years.
The council also voiced displeasure with Wessler Engineering about a design flaw in wastewater plant upgrades and resulting cost overages.
Ryan Brauen, engineer for Wessler, was on hand to submit partial substantial completion documents for the council’s approval. Upgrades to Milford’s wastewater plant, made in response to new government regulations for the disposal of phosphorous, should be complete within the next month. All major construction is complete except for a return activated sludge pump, which is still undergoing testing.
Brauen also presented a change order for the replacement of chemical tubing, which froze during the winter, and the addition of a tank overflow.
Brauen informed the council Wessler had not properly outlined the hot water connection for the line, and he said, “will pay for the chemical line that froze.”
However, the fix for this design omission also called for a chemical tank overflow to serve as a back-up at a cost of $2,919, which Wessler would not pay for on the grounds “had we caught everything the bid price would’ve been higher,” said Brauen.
Council President Doug Ruch disagreed. “Why weren’t they in the original design?” he asked. “It’s Indiana. It’s going to get below zero.”
Council member Joellen Free agreed, adding, “We shouldn’t have to pay for that.”
Brauen agreed to take the town’s objections back to Wessler, and both parties decided to withdraw $2,919 from the pay application to be made to Mason Engineering, the firm performing the actual construction. The amended pay application of $21,616 was approved by the council.
The wastewater plant upgrades, which cost Milford more than $600,000, are only part of the well-documented financial woes afflicting the town’s utilities. Years of neglect and half-measures have rendered utilities unable to pay for itself at current rates, as was shown by an Umbaugh and Associates rate study performed in 2018.
After a winter of “wait-and-see,” the council voted to advertise an upcoming hearing on a wastewater rate hike, which would bring the average monthly bill to $50.07.
This is the highest amount suggested by the study, however. Umbaugh also found $.95 of every $10,000 could come out of other funds in the town’s budget and it could still meet its future expenses. Therefore, the council is likely to call for an average rate of $46.50.
Also, the new rate hike will not be phased-in over time, unlike previous hikes. “We need to get the whole amount to realize the benefit,” stated Free, who previously served as clerk/treasurer.
A public hearing on the new wastewater rate hike will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, May 13.
Mark Brubaker, plant operator, also informed the council he has successfully used the new solids removal system twice.
The following are additional wastewater expenditures approved by the council on April 8: $650 to Living Waters for chlorine detector repairs (“A big safety issue,” said Brubaker); $1,300 to Middlebury Electric for upgrades to electrical lines on new aluminum platforms at plant; $567 to BL Anderson for a flow meter.