Trafalgar residents would see a roughly 43% total increase in their sewer bills if the town council approves a rate increase to pay for a large sewer system update and expansion project.
Trafalgar is growing, and the town needs to expand its wastewater system to account for the expected new residents in the coming years.
The town has grown by roughly 67% in the last 20 years, and its population in the last decade grew by about 300 people, according to U.S. Census data. More houses and subdivisions continue to be built in the small town, so more growth is expected, officials say. The most recent subdivision approved on land behind the Dollar General in the town is expected to bring 140 new homes.
“To be honest, we have to do this upgrade because we don’t have enough capacity for those 140 homes,” council member Jeff Eisenmenger said during a special town council meeting Wednesday.
The sewer expansion project is expected to cost a total of around $7.2 million. The project would make improvements to expand the wastewater treatment plant from 0.2 million gallons per day to 0.4 million gallons per day. It would double the town’s sewer capacity, adding 645 equivalent dwelling units, or EDU, to the system. One residential household equals one EDU.
In order to pay for it, town officials received two state grants and plan to raise sewer rates to cover the cost of a bond the council needs to take out to cover the cost. Trafalgar was awarded a $2.5 million grant from the State Water Infrastructure Fund, or SWIF, and a $700,000 grant from the Indiana Office of Community & Rural Affairs, or OCRA.
That left about $4.2 million the council must borrow as a bond to pay off over the next 20 years, with interest. A proposed increase in sewer rates would hike rates by about 43% total, done in two phases. The first phase, which is the largest rate jump of the two, would begin in October, for bills to be paid in November, and those rates would remain until the construction is complete. The second increase would come after construction is complete, according to town documents.
For the average household, which uses about 4,000 gallons a month on a 5/8 or 3/4 inch meter, the first phase rate change would be about an additional $20 per month, and then around $24 in the second phase.
The town is also looking at a proposal to increase the sewer capacity fee, which new residents would pay to hook up to the town wastewater system. The proposal is to increase that from $1,750 to $3,500 — keeping in line with other surrounding towns, including Bargersville, which has a $4,000 capacity fee.
Jason Ramey, a town council member, said Wednesday that doubling the town’s sewer capacity is a responsible approach to prepare for growth, while also not adding an excessive increase on taxpayers.
“I think doubling the capacity in preparation for the growth we’ve seen, is responsible,” he said.
A public hearing on the rate increases is scheduled during another town council special meeting planned on Aug. 15 at 6 p.m., where the council will also vote on the increases.
Council members on Wednesday said they appreciate being able to hear from the public about the rates, because they, as members of the council and residents themselves, have the same concerns and questions.
“We all pay the same water bills you do,” council member Kyle Siegfred said.