The Monterey Town Council has a lot of thinking to do as they head into the beginning stages of their sewer project. The town has received a grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs to conduct a sewer rate study to determine whether or not they should increase their rates – something they haven’t done since 2007 – in order to fund upgrades and repairs to the waste water treatment plant.
Monterey’s residential sewer rates are $48.11 per month – a relatively low rate, according to a representative from Carter Dillon Umbaugh, the company conducting the rate study. Local officials stress that a rate study does not necessarily mean an increase will follow. This study was prompted by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management which cited the town in 2011 for ammonia level violations at the waste water treatment plant. Those levels have since been brought under control but IDEM asked for additional remediation plans, including a rate study to determine how those costs would be covered should more extensive upgrades be deemed necessary.
The council also heard from a representative of Commonwealth Engineering who explained what can be done to upgrade and repair the waste water treatment plant, and he laid out the potential expenses for the work. The town could apply for a grant that would likely require a 10 percent match, but the grant cycle for this year has expired and its likely they would have to wait until next year to receive any funds.
The council was told that the low-end estimate with the bare essentials to scrape by and ensure the plant runs for a long while would cost approximately $102,000, including administrative and other costs. The project would include the replacement of two blowers which were deemed the culprit of the high ammonia levels as the blowers currently in place are heavily aged and beginning to fail, among a variety of other components that would be installed or replaced.
The high-end estimate, which would include the construction of a building around the waste water treatment plant, came out to between $200,000 and $250,000. Either way, there are reserve funds in the budget that could cover the cost of either option, but the expert who conducted the rate study recommended against cutting too deep into the funds. He said a problem could pop up in the future and they would be too low on funds to address it.
The board scheduled three meetings in the near future: one will take place on June 12 when they will meet to finalize their plans for the waste water treatment plant, followed by a meeting on June 26 to further discuss the project. A public hearing for the rate study – and the possible increase – will take place on July 24.