MILFORD — The May 13 meeting of Milford Town Council saw two significant changes: Council member Joellen Free announced her resignation from the council as of May 31; wastewater rates for Milford residents will go up roughly $3 as of July 1. The average monthly sewer bill will be $46.50.
During her time in local government, beginning as clerk/treasurer in 2012, one of Free’s stated goals was for Milford utilities to become more self-sufficient. It is hoped this most recent rate hike, the second in five years, will move the town closer to its goal.
Nevertheless, when resident Pam Dwyer asked, “Will this get you in the black?” She did not receive a definitive answer from Ross Hagen of Baker Tilly, formerly Umbaugh and Associates, who was on hand to answer questions about the 2018 study upon which the new rate is based.
According to Hagen, the study found Milford’s utilities required an additional $73,000 per year — a 16 percent increase — to meet its financial needs, which include debt service on bonds issued to build and upgrade the wastewater plant, capital improvements, day-to-day expenses and increased costs.
However, the study also concluded the town could lower the increase by 2.2 percent on every $10,000 by drawing from other sources, such as cumulative and county economic development income tax funds, to bring the increase down to 7.8 percent, and, said Hagen, “Hold end-users bills down as much as we can.” This is what the council chose to do.
The rate hike will add $36,000 to town coffers, with the additional $37,000 coming from other sources.
Meanwhile, Wessler Engineering agreed to fully credit the town for additional work on the wastewater plant resulting from a design flaw. The council agreed to pay $612.81 for a hot water line, which will be reimbursed. Another motion paid $2,919 to Wessler.
Final close-out on wastewater plant upgrades will take place May 22.
On a related note, Free said she was “shocked” by how much Baker Tilly’s hourly rates for municipalities rose from those of Umbaugh’s before the merger. The council tabled any further agreement with the firm until other quotes could be obtained.
In a read statement, Free said, “I will be moving out of the town of Milford in June, so I must resign as a council person for the town as of May 31, 2019. It has been a privilege to serve in both roles, first as clerk/treasurer and now as council person.”
As a member of the Republican Party, Free’s successor will be chosen by a party caucus, which according to Mike Ragan, Kosciusko County party chairman, will be within 30 days of Free’s departure date. A new member may be named between June 10 and 29.
Free grew up in Milford, where she also graduated from high school. In 2012, she became clerk/treasurer, a position she maintained until 2018, when she ran successfully for a seat on the town council.
She will be moving to Goshen, where she has also lived in the past, to be nearer to family.
“I am grateful for the experiences and, most of all, the relationships I have been able to enjoy,” Free stated.