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November 2, 2012

Sewer rates could rise 15 percent next July

TERRE HAUTE — The nine-member Terre Haute City Council is faced with increasing sewer rates over the next three years to meet state-and-federal mandates to improve the city’s aging wastewater treatment plant.

According to plans presented to the council at Thursday night’s “sunshine” meeting in City Hall, the rates would increase 15 percent in July of next year followed by two additional increases of 15 percent over the next two years.

According to Dean Rogers of H.J. Umbaugh & Associates, an Indianapolis consulting firm, the average household would see its monthly sewer bill increase from $32 to $37 the first year then to about $43 the second year and $49 the third year.

These rates would still leave Terre Haute’s sewer rates among the lowest in the area, said Chuck Ennis, city engineer.

The rate increases will provide funds to upgrade the city’s sewage treatment plant, roughly doubling its capacity, said Guido Borgnini of HNTB, which has helped design the upgrades. The increased capacity is necessary to allow the city to proceed with the rest of its federally mandated combined sewer overflow plans, he said.

Failure to make the mandated improvements could result in significant fines and a federal takeover of the city’s combined sewer overflow plan, city officials said.

• Also Thursday, members of the council got a first look at the final version of new city council districts.

The new districts, which must still be approved by the council and the State of Indiana, would change the outlines of the six city districts. While most city residents would remain in the same districts they are presently in, others would find themselves with new city council representatives under the new map.

• Also, the council was asked to approve at next week’s meeting a city bond issue of up to $5.5 million to pay for a new “public safety” facility at 12th Street and Wabash Avenue. At present, the plan is for the facility to house a new police headquarters. However, Councilman Norm Loudermilk, D-3rd, asked that the facility also provide space for fire department administration. The current fire administration building, on North First Street, is expected to be vacated in the future to make way for a final phase of the city’s upgraded sewage management system, he noted.

• The Council also heard a request to rezone property at 1353 Ohio St. to R-3, multi-family housing. That request met with objection from MillerWhite, an advertising and public relations firm at 1341 Ohio St. MillerWhite would like the property to remain zoned for commercial use in accord with surrounding properties, said an attorney representing the firm. The matter is expected to be debated further next Wednesday night before the Vigo County Area Plan Commission.

n Finally, the council also heard a request to permit the city-owned parking lot at Fifth Street and Wabash Avenue to be placed up for public auction. A minimum sale price, based on appraisals of the property, would be $118,000, said Rhonda Oldham, an attorney helping facilitate the property’s sale.

The parking lot currently contains 33 spaces, and “there are concerns” from area businesses about the loss of that parking, said Councilman Todd Nation, D-4th.

The council could vote on these and other matters at next Thursday evening’s regular meeting, 6 p.m. in City Hall.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com.

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