Huntingburg growth requires water plant expansion; water distribution work

Huntingburg’s water department has several large projects in the works to allow for the continued growth of the city.

Department supervisor Gary Meyerholtz informed the common council he was expecting the plant to be running at full capacity by 2025 at the current rate of growth in the city’s industrial and residential areas. While Meyerholtz admitted industrial demands have increased, residential use impacts the use as well. “Every time we add residents, we add 5,000 gallons of consumption,” he explained. “Since the filter plant was built, we have added 244 residential services. Plus we have added Stork Place and The Lofts at St. Joseph.”

The water plant can produce 1.2 million gallons of clean water per day if it’s running at 100 percent production. Meyerholtz told the council that it is not a good scenario to have to run the plant at 100 percent capacity for long periods of time.

The city does receive 750,000 gallons from the Patoka Lake Regional Water and Sewer District to cover the city’s average daily usage of 1.5 million gallons. The plant also isn’t required to run at 100 percent capacity with this supplemental water.

However, this water is more expensive and according to contract, the amount is set to begin to be reduced in 2019—it will go down 75,000 gallons per day as per the 50-year contract the city has with the district—which will put more of a demand on the Huntingburg plant.

“When that happens, we will jump to 81 percent of capacity at the water plant,” Meyerholtz said. “They recommend that once you hit 66 percent you start making plans. We have been at 64 percent (capacity) for the past couple years.”

On a daily average in 2017, the water plant has been producing 850,000 gallons a day. “Over the last three years, we have had three months when we averaged over a million gallons to keep up,” Meyerholtz said. “We are running awful close to our cap on certain months.”

The understructure for four additional filters was included in the construction of the plant. It is sitting underneath the floor of the plant now. All that is required is removing the floor and sand filler for the new filters to be added. Adding four new filters would double the production capacity of the plant bringing it up to 2.4 million gallons per day.

Meyerholtz told the council that once the go-ahead is given by the council, it would take about two to two and a half years to complete the expansion.

Of equal importance were some upgrades that need to be completed in the distribution system, Meyerholtz said.

The water main that runs from 2nd Avenue to 14th Street under Main Street/U.S. 231 is 80 to 100 years old, according to Meyerholtz. The highway is scheduled to be completely rebuilt by the Indiana Department of Transportation in 2020. Meyterholtz expects this construction will probably cause multiple breaks and leaks in the old line so he is recommending the city begin plans to replace the line before the highway construction begins.

“I would hate to have to dig up the new highway after it is completed,” he said.

Another concern Meyerholtz shared was an old water main that travels under U.S. 231 at 14th Street that has had problems several times recently. He told the council he would like to get it replaced before the overpass is completed. “We would be a lot better off dealing with it rather than keep fixing it,” he said.

He explained that once the overpass is completed and that street becomes a connection for heavy truck traffic to return to U.S. 231, the water main will be much more difficult to replace and will likely have more issues from the traffic.

“It’s an investment into the community for the next 100 years,” Gary said referring to all the projects that need to be completed. “It’s going to be expensive but it is an investment.”

To pay for the work, City Attorney Phil Schneider stated the utility could use some of the cash it currently produces through its operations but would likely have to issue bonds and seek grants to pay for the projects. “If we do that, hopefully, we can do it without changing our rates,” he said.

The projects can be spread over a couple years but Meyerholtz pointed out the Main Street water main and the expansion of the filtration plant are paramount and have timelines.

The council agreed and voted unanimously to allow Meyerholtz to begin to interview firms to engineer and plan the work.

Also during the meeting:

—Approved issuing $3,506,000 in economic development bonds for Farbest Foods’ plans to make $21.7 million in improvements at its Huntingburg plant. The bonds will be paid by the property tax revenue increases that occur in two TIF districts along County Road 400 West. The city redevelopment commission will consider it for final adoption at their Dec. 19 meeting, which will start at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

—Approved additional appropriations for the 2017 budget to complete the year.

—Approved a 2 percent raise for elected officials in the 2018 salary ordinance.

—Heard electric rates will decrease about $6 for 1000 kWh of usage. This is pass down savings from the Indiana Municipal Power Agency which has seen a 6 percent reduction in costs. The reduction in cost comes as IMPA has refinanced some of its debt as well as increased efficiency and sourced electricity from gas-burning power plants. Additionally, Energy Superintendent JohnReutepohler stated the lifting of some of the pollution control requirements has reduced expenditures. The tracker on customers’ bills will reflect the lower cost as the city passes it along.

One Response to Huntingburg growth requires water plant expansion; water distribution work

  1. Mrs. Ima Ruth Green November 29, 2017 at 8:07 pm #

    Translated, water rates are/will be going up, up, up! No way to “hopefully do it without changing rates” (paraphrased).

    That said, seems a curious thing that all this comes on the heels of the Farbest expansion plans. How much additional water will their expansion tax the city’s system? How much does the current Farbest operation use? I recall reading years ago that Farbest has always used roughly half of the city’s water for years, and is essentially why Huntingburg even has a Farbest water contract with special rates plus a Patoka Water contract to assure that the city can serve Farbest in case the Lake can’t supply enough, during droughts, etc.