Council moves proposed sewer rate increase forward

Further discussion, review expected on ordinance


A proposal to raise sewer rates moved forward Monday, but not without some resistance.

Members of the Crawfordsville Common Council discussed the proposed ordinance that would raise monthly sewer rates by approximately $10, enact a minimum monthly user fee and establish a higher monthly rate for users outside of the city. All the rate changes and charges would take place in two phases, the first would go into effect April 1 and the second phase on Jan. 1, 2025.

Currently, the average monthly sewer bill, based on 4,000 gallons, is $27.55. With the proposed rate increase, that bill would average $32.30 after April 1 and $37.87 after Jan. 1, 2025.

Council member Jennifer Lowe expressed her concern about enacting a minimum user fee for those who use less than 2,000 gallons a month. She believes it would negatively impact residents on a fixed income and contradicts conservation efforts.

“We are encouraged to save and conserve water and now we’re penalized for not using enough water,” she said. “It just seems like we are sending out the wrong message.”

Currently, the city does not charge a minimum fee. If the ordinance is adopted, the minimum monthly charge would be $20.46 on April 1 and then $23.99 beginning Jan. 1, 2025.

Jarrod Hall from Krohn & Associates, the financial advisors hired by the city to conduct a rate study, said the minimum monthly charge was a recommendation from his firm that would allow the city to recoup lost wastewater revenue. He explained there are approximately 300 users with ineffective or broken water meters. This impacts the wastewater department since sewer bills are based on water usage. The city purchases water usage data from Indiana American Water to calculate sewer bills.

Currently, city users pay a rate of $0.505 per 100 gallons of water. That rate would increase to $0.592 on April 1 and $0.694 on Jan. 1, 2025. Users outside of the city would pay a rate of $0.678 per 100 gallons of water beginning April 1 and $0.795 beginning Jan. 1, 2025. The minimum monthly fee for users outside of the city would be $23.43 beginning April 1 and $27.48 beginning Jan. 1, 2025.

The proposal also would raise the monthly billing and administrative charge from $7.35 to $8.62 on April 1, then $10.11 after Jan. 1, 2025. The ordinance also outlines an increase for industrial surcharges.

Lowe is not opposed to raising sewer rates overall but wants the water company to fix its meters.

Mayor Todd Barton said meetings with the water company have yet to resolve the issue.

“It is something we can look at in our future agreements with them,” he said. “I am confident that we will continue to have those conversations and we will get results, but in the interim we still have people who are using a lot of water and not paying for the sewer system.”

Barton reminded council members that the water company is not obligated to provide water usage data to the city, and it would be costly for the city should it have to take on collecting that information to generate a sewer bill.

The council approved the first reading of the proposed ordinance by a 5-2 vote, with Lowe and Jeff Lucas casting the dissenting votes. The ordinance requires two additional readings before it can be adopted.

In other business, the council:

• Adopted an ordinance establishing a city READI grant fund.

• Approved, on first reading, two ordinances pertaining to re-establishing and funding the deputy city/treasurer’s position. The salary set for the position would be $55,600. Two additional readings are necessary for adoption.

• Approved a resolution designating an economic revitalization area and approving a tax abatement for Spartech LLC. The company, formerly Crawford Industries, is looking to invest $1.8 million in manufacturing equipment to modernize and add efficiency to its existing Crawfordsville operation. This investment will help retain 87 full-time employees at the plant and add an additional 10 new, full-time positions.

• Adopted an ordinance replacing city code, chapter 30 as it pertains to the alignment and organization of city government operations.

• Passed a resolution acknowledging receipt of the 2023 Crawfordsville Main Street annual report. Sue Lucas, CMS director, thanked the city for its continued support of the organization.

• Approved, on first reading, an ordinance replacing city code, chapter 53 as it pertains to drainage control regulations. Two additional readings are required before the ordinance is enacted.

• Adopted an ordinance creating a new section of chapter 72 of the city’s traffic code to regulate the parking of commercial vehicles and trailers, boats, recreational vehicles, campers and travel trailers on city streets, alleys, roads, sidewalks and right-of-ways. Temporary parking is not to exceed 24 hours. The ordinance also establishes fines and penalties.

• Approved, on first reading, an ordinance amending the city’s parking ordinance to establish a 72-hour limit at the city parking lot in the 400 block of East Main Street. Two additional readings are needed before the ordinance can be adopted.