ODON — The Odon Town Board has voted to increase water rates in the town. The board approved the increase without a comment during a Monday night meeting. The increase will go into effect in October and will show up on customers’ bills in November. Currently Odon residents pay $6.20 per 1,000 gallons with the minimum bill being for 3,000 gallons for a total price of $18.60 per month. Under the new rate, customers will pay $9.06 per 1,000 gallons with the minimum bill going to $27.18 per month.
“About 94% of our customers have the minimum bill,” said Odon Town Board President Susie Roach. “We had a financial advisor look at our rates and make a recommendation. This will pretty much put our rates in line with other communities in Indiana our size. Right now, our rate is very low compared to other towns. There is nothing wrong with that as long as nothing goes wrong.”
But there has been plenty going wrong in the last few years. The system includes pipes that have been in the ground for 60 to 80 years that have been breaking and leaking on a consistent basis. The water department operated in the red last year due to water loss and repairs. In addition, the water plant is aging and there are questions on whether the stand-pipe that holds the water has enough capacity.
“We are negotiating with an engineering firm to come in and find out what is wrong with the system and the plant,” said Roach. “We went with the rate increase because we are hoping to land a grant to do whatever work needs to be done. One of the things you have to show when you go after a grant is that you are doing your part on your end.”
Without a full analysis from an engineering firm the town is uncertain what kind of repairs will have to be made.
“We hope this is enough that we will not have to come back with another rate increase to cover the cost of repairs,” said Roach. “There are going to be a lot of steps before we are done and the rate increase was just one.”
The water project will include the engineering study and assessment of the current system that will be followed with a recommendation for repairs. Then the community will prioritize the repairs that need to be made and seek grant funding to help pay for it.
“We know this will be a project that we cannot do all at once,” said Roach. “We will be putting together a schedule over multiple years to try and get everything fixed.”
The town currently has 677 customers. One of the largest is the North Daviess Community Schools. Officials say they are they are also trying to take into consideration the possibility of commercial or industrial expansion at the I-69 interchange near the school.
One unknown is what the town board intends to do with an automatic 1.5% annual rate increase passed by a previous town board around 2000 that was put into action one year, and then for an unknown reason was suspended. Officials say that increase, which was put in to fight inflation, could add around $450,000 over 20 years.
The new rates are expected to bring in around $250,000 annually.