Sewer project decision due next month

    Members of the Adams County Regional Sewer District board hope to know by next month the future of a proposed a proposed $4.5 million sewer project to serve the rural areas of Monmouth, Bobo, Pleasant Mills and Arcadia Village.
    What shape that project takes, if any, will largely depend on upcoming negotiations with Decatur officials over ancillary costs associated with treating sewage from the outlying areas.
    The county sewer board is attempting to finalize its cost estimates for the rural sewer project following the receipt of a $2 million rural development grant and $2.5 million in low-interest loans earmarked to construct and maintain sewer lines designated to serve approximately 233 homes in rural areas of northern Adams County.
    The cost to individual rural homeowners for sewage service has yet to be determined as the regional board attempts to get a firm handle on its overall expenses. Among those cost uncertainties is the price to be paid by the district for treatment of sewage sent by the regional district to the Decatur waste water treatment plant.
    Decatur Mayor John Schultz at last month's board meeting offered to the regional sewer board a price of $32.84 per month per customer for sewage treatment.
    Ben Adams, the regional sewer 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," Adams said last month.
    In lieu of that commitment, however, regional sewer board members agreed to approach Decatur officials with a formal proposal to see if other costs associated with the sewage treatment — billing, maintenance, insurance, etc.  — could be rolled in to that total price.
    Those negotiations have not yet taken place, but Mayor Schultz said Wednesday evening at the regional sewer board's regular monthly meeting that the city officials "will be willing to sit down and talk with you."
    Regional sewer board president Barry Scherer said recent conversations with state Rural Development Authority personnel have indicated that the sewer district's original proposal can be altered in any number of ways to keep costs to homeowners reasonable.
    "Rural Development says if the district wants to pursue a different type of project, that is possible," said Adams. "If we want to downsize the project, or look at a different service area .. basically anything is on the table."
    "The bottom line," said Sherer, "is that we're trying to stay with the original project. We're trying to make this project work, and to keep costs down. If the project doesn't go, then it doesn't go."
    Scherer said officials from the Indiana Regional Sewer District Association have suggested the district seek additional grant funding from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. To qualify for an OCRA grant, the project area must have a 56 percent or higher low/moderate income rate. The maximum amount of grant funding available under that program is $500,000. "Those grants are competitive, and there are no guarantees," said Sherer.
    Some initial estimates have indicated that total monthly charges for customers of the regional sewer district could reach or exceed $100.