Huntington City Council approves sewer plans preliminarily

A sketch of improvements that will be made to Tipton Street after new sewer pipes are installed under the street in 2022 and 2023.
A sketch of improvements that will be made to Tipton Street after new sewer pipes are installed under the street in 2022 and 2023. Graphic provided.

The Huntington City Council approved on first reading, on Monday, Nov. 9, an ordinance that will allow the city to construct and install improvements to the city’s sewer.

According to a document submitted to council by city attorney Michael Hartburg, the city of Huntington must eliminate its combined sewer systems from allowing untreated water back into the city’s waterways.

Apparently, with heavy rainfall, (more than 1 inch per day), the city of Huntington sees untreated water heading directly back into its waterways.

The problem was first detected in 2007, according to Hartburg’s letter, and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) filed suit against Huntington, and set forth a timeline for which work on the sewer system was to be completed.

There are nine steps to the project. Six of those steps have been completed in the years since, but now, council must set forth a plan to complete the last three steps.

Anthony Goodnight, project manager and civil engineer from Loch-mueller, who has designed the first six projects, and Jeff Rowe, accountant, of BakerTilly both addressed the board in regards to the timeline and cost of completing those steps.

According to Goodnight, the project will not be fully completed until the last quarter of 2023.

The engineering company’s plan is to install a new sewer pipe, which will range from 36 to 72 inches, starting at the waste water treatment plant, and continuing up, under the railroad tracks, and then to State Street extended, up LaFontaine Street to Tipton Street, along Tipton Street and ending at the Division and Canfield Street intersection.

Overall, it will be about two miles of pipe, Goodnight said.

Tipton Street will be improved, which is “the nice thing about this,” Goodnight noted. There will be new curbs, asphalt, sidewalks and new handicap ramps on Tipton after project completion. “We will make the road look like a million dollars,” he said.

The road improvements will be included in the cost of the project – a total projected cost of over $34 million.

Goodnight projects the project will be bid in February 2022, with construction beginning that April.

To discuss cost, Rowe presented four different funding routes.

Rowe was last in front of council in 2017, when they worked with him to increase the rates of sewer usage to citizens over a 5-year span. Since, sewer rates have gone up 2 percent per year. Rates will increase again in 2021 and 2022.

He says that rate increase “set the stage pretty well” for what is to come.

To fund the current proposed project, two funding options were open market and two were State Revolving Fund (SRF) – a low-interest loan program provided by the state.

The lowest rate increase was with the “SRF Wrap” option, which only increased sewer rates by 57 cents per month for users. This option also offered the lowest amount of interest paid on the project, which was about $11.5 million. It was presented as a 20-year loan.

The most expensive option was in the open market, which would increase sewer rates over $13 per month for users, and was presented as a 35-year loan term.

City council members appeared to be in unanimous agreement that the lowest increase to sewer rates, and lowest amount of interest paid would be the best option.

Rowe explained that to go the SRF funding route, he must apply to be accepted into that program by the state.

He said it is not guaranteed that the entire project, or any of it, would be accepted into the SRF program.

If it was not, the council would have to finance the project in the open market, which could lead to those $13 per month rate increases.

This ordinance will be revisited at the next meeting of council, on Tuesday, Nov. 24 , at 6:45 a.m.