Milford Town Council looked into a wastewater study performed by Umbaugh and Associates on Monday night. The study described a nearly $1.2 million debt which the town still has to pay back to bond holders.
As the town continues to pay on the debt, along with daily costs and repairs, the net profit for a sample year comes out to negative $107,000. Currently, the gap between profit and costs is being subsidized by money from the County Economic Development Income Tax Fund.
Since the town utilities are supposed to be a functioning entity, the fact that they cannot at this point support themselves from their own profits caused some concern among members of the council. John Julien of Umbaugh & Associates recommended an increase in service rates to resolve the issue.
In total, the increase would bring an additional 30 percent adjustment to user’s bills, allowing the extra money to pay back bills and encourage any needed repairs. Julien also suggested refinancing the bonds Milford has yet to pay back. The cost for refinancing would be around $50,000, but refinancing may lower resident’s rates increase to around 28 percent.
Currently, Milford’s wastewater rates rank as some of the lowest in the area. Even with a maximum 30 percent increase, the town would still rank near average compared to other cities and towns in the area, which are also likely to increase rates in the coming years.
The major issue with increasing the rates applies to those that live outside of town limits but use town wastewater. Those users must pay a 50 percent surcharge every billing period and are not excluded from the potential rate increase based on the study. The council expressed concerns about the validity of the study, and also questioned whether it was appropriate to raise the these customer’s rates in such a way as to risk analysis by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission which charges possibly a heavier fee than the town would profit, should an additional IURC study be required.
The town council has agreed to have Umbaugh & Associates prepare an ordinance for an increase at the highest possible rate – describing it as a “worst possible scenario” draft – and also to continue the study, given the new information regarding surcharges for outside-of-town customers. The ordinance is expected to allow a gradual rate increase over the next few years, rather than all at once and will be introduced to town council in December’s meeting. It will be open for a public hearing to be scheduled for the January meeting.
At last month’s meeting, Ned and Barb Schueller expressed their concerns over the high water charges they incurred because of a new flow meter which was installed at Bio Waste Processing. The council has come to a conclusion that the total fees for the unpaid time period, when the flow meter was providing abnormal spikes, will be around $1,300.
Town council approved Resolution 2012-2, which accepted the order of the Area Plan Commission for the Tax Increment Financing District and confirmed the location of the TIF District inside city limits.
Later in the meeting, the council also discussed the county’s decision to vacate a portion of road along Old SR 15 which was annexed recently, as they begin construction for a branch line to allow movement on the east and west rail lines, as well as on the north and south rail lines. While the decision is solely that of the county, the council’s approval was requested.
Also last month, Randy Veach, superintendent of the utilities department, expressed concerns about a tree which has been rotted out at a property on Main Street. Milford Town Attorney Jay Ridgon recommended that the council file an ordinance to encourage the land owner to remove the tree, however, town council still hopes to reach out to the land owner with more options for removal. They hope to prevent injury and also to make it as easy on the land owner as possible.
Town council has agreed to provide contributions to both the fire department and the police department for new equipment. The police department has been allotted $1,500 for the purchase and installation of a SoundOff Signal ETL Led Lightbar for the 2008 patrol car, however, town marshal Rich Miotto hopes the actual costs will fall much below that number.
The fire department will purchase a new hydraulic rescue tool, better known as the “Jaws of Life” cutter and spreader at around $9,000. The new “Jaws” tool is expected to last for nearly 25 years and, after the old “Jaws” tool is refurbished, the fire department will have two on hand during crashes.
“I’m in favor of making sure the first responders have what they need,” Robert Cockburn said.
The fire department will also purchase the first set of three Scott airpacks, self contained breathing apparatuses. The bottles must be replaced every 15 years and the fire department hopes to slowly begin the replacement process with the first set this coming year.
The salary increase for city workers will be 3.5 percent for 2013, which continues to grow from previous years. In 2010, workers saw a 1 percent increase, and only saw wages rise three-fourths of a percent in 2011. In 2012, workers were provided with wage increases of 3 percent. Utility workers will also see a rise in the stipends they receive.
The next Milford Town Council meeting is scheduled for Dec. 10. Milford Town Hall will be closed on Nov. 22-23 in observation of Thanksgiving.