By David Hazledine
MILFORD — Milford Town Council held a special meeting Wednesday, Aug. 5, in the community building, during which it voted to hire Commonwealth Engineers Inc. to validate the town’s upcoming water audit and assist with asset management plans for water and wastewater. The council also voted to authorize Commonwealth to apply for a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development to study Milford’s drinking water system.
In attendance were Commonwealth employees Lauren Varga, business development manager, and Andrew Robarge, project engineer, who responded to questions from council members.
Commonwealth was chosen by a committee composed of Streets/Utilities Superintendent Steven Marquart, Town Clerk/Treasurer Tricia Gall and Councilman Ken Long. Four other firms were approached as well, said Long, during a two-month process. “The effort Commonwealth put in was above everyone else,” he stated, while also lauding the firm’s “broad range of capabilities.”
Town Attorney Jay Rigdon, citing his experiences with Commonwealth since the 1980s while representing the towns of Etna Green and Warsaw, characterized it as “a dependably good firm.”
The parties agreed to working on a “project basis,” starting with the validation of Milford’s water audit, to be performed at a cost of $1,750.
Varga was also authorized to assemble information and submit an application to USDA rural development, currently offering 75/25 matching grants on an estimated $40,000 drinking water study. If approved, the cost to Milford will be roughly $10,000.
Robarge also commented Indiana Finance Authority has put increased emphasis on asset management plans. Commonwealth will grade the “costs of capital components and managerial components” in Milford’s water and wastewater systems, including age, condition and criticality of those components.
“We want to keep our clients on the cutting edge of whatever is coming next,” he added.
“It is in our best interest to have a program in place to seek funding for future projects,” said Long. Milford will be seeking asset management grants from the state revolving fund, up to $25,000 per utility. Council President Doug Ruch suggested Commonwealth and utilities work on a proposal for Milford Redevelopment Commission, which could provide funding if it is beneficial to Milford’s TIF districts. Robarge agreed a proposal could be provided in time for the council’s Sept. 14 meeting.
Commonwealth can also provide lists of financial consultants to perform rate analysis, said Robarge. Marquart noted Milford is nearing the five-year mark since its last water rate study. Gall added previous wastewater rate increases have “not gone well.”
Robarge also touted Commonwealth’s “regulatory arm,” including a former Indiana Department of Environmental Management employee who keeps track of new regulations and can “advise communities as to what’s coming,” enabling more proactive decision-making.
Near meeting’s end attendees discussed recent changes made by Federal Emergency Management Agency to flood plane zoning around Turkey Creek. “I couldn’t believe how large they made it,” Long exclaimed. Marquart added the new zoning adversely affects the town’s efforts to identify locations for new housing. Robarge said Commonwealth may be able to investigate ways of revising the changes.