Greenwood officials say residents will need to start paying higher sewer bills in the spring to help fund more than $50 million in sanitation projects the city plans for the next 10 years.
The proposed fee increases would have to be approved by the city council. But without increasing sewer rates, the city won’t be able to pay for the projects that would get the city compliant with Indiana Department of Environmental Management rules, according to Greenwood director of community development services Mark Richards.
How much bills would go up hasn’t been decided yet. The city will look at rate hikes three years in advance, so they could go up more than once to help pay for the projects, controller Adam Stone said.
As long as Greenwood makes progress toward completing the projects, which will include replacing worn-out pipes and repairing manholes, over the next 10 to
15 years, the state will not penalize the city, Richards said.
This comes after the city raised bills by 44 percent in 2010, 10 percent in 2012 and another 10 percent in 2013. The average homeowner pays about $28.50 a month now but paid about $15.55 a month in 2010. Trash and the stormwater utility fee are included on the same bill, for an average of $42 per month.
After a sewer overflow that polluted Honey Creek and killed hundreds of fish in 2011, the state ordered Greenwood to study its system and plan how to prevent future sewage spills. Sewage spilled into the water for two days after a fuse blew in a lift station and alarms failed to work.
The recommended work together will cost an estimated $54 million.
The sewer upgrades include replacing more than 266,553 feet of sewer lines throughout the city, replacing and fixing nearly 1,000 manholes and repairing roads, driveways and sidewalks damaged by the construction. The city also will pay for further inspections of sewer lines and manholes in areas HWC Engineering of Indianapolis has identified as problem spots where stormwater gets into the sewer system, such as in the Old Town area.
All of that is part of making the city compliant with state rules. Under an agreement with the state that followed the fish kill, the city must follow a schedule for maintaining alarms, backup alarms and backup pumps.
The agreement also spells out how Greenwood will keep its sewer pipes from leaking, fix them when needed, stop rainwater from getting in them and prevent people from hooking their sump pumps into the sewers, which can cause sewer system overflows.
The city finance department is working with an accounting firm to study how much money the sanitation department currently can put toward the project costs and how much rates would need to increase, Stone said.
“I think it’s unlikely any of (the projects) will be done unless the rate is adjusted,” Richards said. “The goal is to be able to perform the work that has been identified.”
A priority would be work along Pleasant Run Creek near Fairview Road, he said. The work would include repairing a large sewer line for about $30,000, replacing 1,097 feet of sewer lines, cleaning sewers and fixing 17 manholes. The total cost of that project is estimated to be $586,990.
In 2013, HWC Engineering sent video cameras through pipes, inspected manholes and used meters to assess the flow of sewage. The studies showed areas in the city, mostly in the Old Town area, where worn pipes let rainwater into the sewer system. The company proposed repairs and improvements for the sewer system in December.
The goal of the study was to find places in the system where wastewater flow increased when it rained and where outside water gets into the sanitary system. If rainwater gets into the system, the pipes can fill up and overflow out of manholes and elsewhere.