Mark Burry, attorney for the regional sewer group
The Adams County Regional Sewer District board will submit to Decatur municipal officials a written proposal outlining sewage treatment costs and other variables associated with a proposed $4.5 million sewer project to serve the outlying areas of Monmouth, Bobo, Pleasant Mills and Arcadia Village.
Negotiations between the city and the regional sewer group have been ongoing for the past month and were not resolved during a two-hour meeting Tuesday evening at Decatur's Riverside Center.
The county sewer board is attempting to get up and running following its receipt of a $2 million rural development grant and $2.5 million in low-interest loans earmarked to construct and maintain sewer lines to serve designated approximately 233 homes in rural areas northern Adams County.
The cost to individual rural homeowners for sewage and wastewater disposal has yet to be determined as the regional board attempts to get a firm handle on its overall expenses. Chief among those uncertainties is the price to be charged by the City of Decatur for treatment of sewage sent by the regional district to the Decatur waste water treatment plant.
Decatur Mayor John Schultz on Tuesday said the city has yet to finalize its own sewage rate hike, but offered to the regional sewer board a price of $32.84 per month per customer for sewage treatment, based on 5,000 gallons of usage.
Schultz said that fee is the same as the rate charged to residential city customers.
"I understand that is an in-city, retail rate," said Mark Burry, attorney for the regional sewer group. "We propose that the city then take over some of the maintenance (of the rural sewer line), just like it does for in-city users. If the district is to pay this retail rate, will the city maintain our facilities and do our billing?"
"No," said Schultz.
"Are any of these things negotiable?" Burry asked. "We need to know how the city will look at future capital expenditures. Are you expecting the district to help pay for those?"
"If there's a rate increase, the cost to the district will go up," Schultz responded.
Ben Adams, the regional board's consultant from Commonwealth Engineering, proposed that all sewage flows from the rural areas be metered and billed accordingly. "The bottom line is, what the district wants is a metered treatment rate."
Schultz said he would discuss the matter with the city's rate consultant and legal counsel.
At that point, Burry recommended the regional board put together a written draft agreement "that spells out all these things." The proposal will then be submitted to city officials and negotiations will continue.
"I appreciate what the city of Decatur is doing to try and accommodate us," said regional board member Barry Ehinger.
Board members spent the first half of the two-hour meeting fielding questions from some of the 30 area residents in attendance. Many of those questions focused on the costs to individual homeowners. Burry stressed that those answers are still unknown.
"We are still discussing final treatment rates with the city of Decatur. What's it going to cost residents? That's what has held this board up. We're at a critical juncture."
"We're kind of skating around some of these answers because we don't have an;y ordinances in place yet," said board president Barry Scherer. "But we're going to try our darndest to get those costs down to where we started."
The regional sewer board will next meet at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 17, at Riverside Center.