Brown County Water Utility plans millions of works

In this 2016 file photo, plant operator Justin Hawley checks the levels and condition of the storage and boost tanks in the Brown County Water Utility system from his computer at the plant in treatment. While there are manual commands that can bypass computer commands if needed, the computer allows Hawley to monitor the entire system from his desktop and even check the status of various parts of the system from of his telephone when he is on a service call.

Over the next two years, Brown County Water Utility plans to replace water and service lines, drill a new well, purchase new meter reading instruments and make other investments in its buildings and its equipment.

But first, he has to find around $ 4.3 million to do it.

The member-owned utility – which is not run by the Brown County government – began planning for these system improvements over a year ago. Now that more funding for infrastructure projects is available from state and federal sources, the utility is filing applications to see how much it can get in grants so that less needs to be funded in the form of a loan.

BCWU clients will not have to pay project costs which are funded by grants. They will likely have to pay the project costs which are financed by loans. How much that will represent, the leaders of the BCWU are not yet sure, as they have not received information on the amount of grants they will get.

By October, the utility hopes to have this information, according to a project schedule in the preliminary engineering report. If all goes according to plan, construction could start in May 2022 and be completed by May 2023.

BCWU, established in 1964, now has approximately 5,500 customers, primarily in Brown County. One of those customers is the City of Nashville, which buys its water from BCWU for resale to Nashville Utilities customers.

BCWU’s supply comes primarily from the water it produces, but the water is also purchased from Jackson County Water Utility and Citizens Energy Group.

The most recent major projects undertaken by BCWU date back to 2011, when it built a new water treatment facility and drilled two new wells, and in 2015, when it replaced a water main, installed new water storage tanks and did other work. Still, “the system has aged and some components need to be replaced due to deterioration,” says the preliminary engineering report.

The BCWU Board of Directors approved this report on July 20 after a public hearing that no other clients attended. This does not mean that all the projects in the report will be finalized; the board just approved the plan.

The projects include:

  • drill a new well to replace a 40-year-old that is no longer functioning;
  • replacement of 14,900 feet of water main in five sectors;
  • replacing approximately 600 service lines to reduce leaks;
  • work on equipment for the Spurgeon rappelling station in Van Buren Township;
  • work on components that monitor parts of the water system;
  • construct a new maintenance building that includes a filling station for water carriers to fill their trucks;
  • repair the foundations of the BCWU building, replace the roof and floor, remodel the reception for better safety, install a back-up generator and repair the asphalt; and
  • the purchase of new meter reading equipment.

These projects will not expand the service area of ​​the water utility, but rather increase the quality of that service, said Ellen Masteller, longtime office manager. Some pipes will be enlarged to allow more water to pass through them, and the main pipes will be replaced – some of which are stock from the water system – before they break and cause major problems.

The board could still decide to take projects off the list later in the process, said Ben Phillips, chairman of the BCWU board.

Easements will have to be acquired to carry out part of the work.

To construct the new maintenance building and filling station, a house south of the BCWU office which is owned by BCWU may be demolished, according to project plans.

BCWU has requested funding from several sources to cover these projects.

The utility sent a request last week to be considered for funding for the READI grant. Brown County is part of a region of 11 counties seeking a grant of up to $ 50 million through the READI program, but it is unclear how the projects that each county sends for review will be prioritized and taken into account for the region’s global grant application.

The utility has a pending application with Brown County commissioners for a share of the county’s nearly $ 3 million in American Rescue Act money, which will arrive over the next two years. Applications are due to be assessed later this month, around the time the county council and commissioner discuss budgets for next year.

BCWU applied for funding from the State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF), which also operates a grant program called the State Water Infrastructure Fund (SWIF).

The utility had also planned to apply for funding from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA), but board members learned at their July meeting that OCRA had decided to not finance any water or wastewater project and divert that money elsewhere. This year. Phillips signed a letter on behalf of the board asking OCRA to reconsider its decision.

BCWU has missed the threshold of one place to receive a 2% interest rate from the Indiana Finance Authority, but it can continue to reapply to try to climb higher on this list.

BCWU has two ongoing loans from previous projects: for just over $ 7 million through IFA / SRF with a repayment date of 2036, and for $ 4.3 million through USDA Rural Development with a repayment date of 2050. , according to the engineering report.

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