By Dan Spalding
WARSAW — The city’s newly expanded sewage treatment plant has attracted a new customer.
A long-anticipated agreement appears to be coming together between the city and the new Tippecanoe & Chapman Regional Sewer District.
Financial details were not yet announced, but Warsaw City Council on Monday, Aug. 2, took the first step toward approving an agreement.
Members of the Tippy-Chapman sewer board have already formally expressed interest in having Warsaw provide treatment service.
When the agreement is finalized, Tippy-Chapman would become the third major customer outside city limits, joining the towns of Winona Lake and Leesburg.
The multi-million dollar expansion of the plant – the largest capital project in the city history – was recently finished just as the city inched closer to capacity.
Utility Manager Brian Davison told council members Monday that serving the future district would not negatively affect the capacity of the plant. Even if Tippy-Chapman reaches its anticipated level of flow, the plant would still be somewhere near 66 percent capacity.
Based on anticipated growth, Davison predicts the new plant won’t reach capacity until possibly 2050.
“It really doesn’t hurt our life expectancy of the plant and it gives us a larger customer base to share the cost of treatment,” Davison said. “Overall, all in all, financially, I think it’s a good move for the city.”
The city had conversations with the sewer district prior to the city’s expansion of sewer services northward into the airport industrial park and designed the system with a connection point ready to handle flow from the sewer district, Davison said.
Finalizing an interlocal agreement with a treatment provider is one of many steps the new sewer district is taking care of in hopes of seeking construction bids by the end of the year.
The sewer district estimates there could be as many as 2,381 customers once work is completed.
According to the sewer district’s website, Lake Tippecanoe and Chapman are the biggest lakes in Kosciusko County that still don’t have sewer service.
In another matter, the council spent more than an hour debating the merits of paying four city employees for their work on an IT governance committee being used to map out city policies rather than rely on one person.
Council had already given preliminary approval for $5,000 stipends for the committee members but continued to debate the subject Monday before eventually voting to approve payments for this year only. The vote was 4-1 with two abstentions.
The committee has been meeting informally for a year and working with department heads in developing and coordinating policies for the entire city network.
Mayor Joe Thallemer proposed providing a stipend this year and then incorporating that level of money into their future salaries.
Monday’s action was focused only on the stipend and did not address permanent pay hikes.
Supporters of the idea said they’d prefer to pay the committee $20,000 per year for now, rather than pay upward of $80,000 or more annually for an IT administrator. They also admitted the city may need to switch to the latter option eventually.
The vote came after several department heads, including Police Chief Scott Whitaker and Public Works Superintendent Dustin Dillon spoke about the benefits they’re already seeing as a result of the committee’s work.
Those voting in support were Diane Quance, Jeff Grose, Josh Finch and Jack Wilhite. Cindy Dobbins said she reluctantly opposed the plan. Jerry Frush and Michael Klondaris abstained.
In another matter, council approved rate hikes at Oakwood Cemetery. The vote was unanimous.