NEW PALESTINE — New Palestine residents will see their utility bills rise by nearly $20 a month next year as town officials launch plans to build a new wastewater treatment plant.
The town’s wastewater plant is operating at 85 percent capacity, and the facility needs to be expanded before the capacity grows to 90 percent, town leaders said. That project, estimated to cost about $4.1 million, is expected to double the wastewater capacity to 400,000 gallons per day.
In order to pay for the project, town leaders say a utility rate hike is necessary.
Residential customers currently pay $48.40 per bill. They can expect that bill to rise to $67 per month, pending approval from the town council.
Commercial and business rate increases will vary depending on the type of business and number of employees, but all current customers can expect to see a hike in their bill.
A public hearing on the matter is set for 7 p.m. Nov. 15.
Professional offices, commercial businesses and salons will pay the same rate as residents, with additional charges based on the number of employees. Businesses such as gas stations will see their wastewater bill rise from $121.14 to $167.10, plus fees based on the number of staff.
Town officials have been discussing the project for months, saying the expansion is needed as the town grows.
At the town council’s most recent meeting, Buzz Krohn, an accountant with O.W. Krohn & Associates, presented numbers detailing how an increase would impact residents’ bills.
A rate increase to $66.75 per month would be necessary to fund the project, and town officials are considering rounding the figure up to $67.
The project originally was estimated to cost about $5.75 million and has been scaled back after town officials learned a project that size would increase residential rates to nearly $74 a month.
They chose to cut some of the work on lift stations to make the project more affordable.
Town manager Dave Book said the work that was trimmed from the project can be completed later.
Resident J.D. Hill attended the council meeting and said while he understands the need for a new facility, he wants more information on how town officials calculated the increase. Town officials say the project is needed to accommodate population growth, but they haven’t given specifics about what that growth is projected to be and the impact it will have on town services, he said.
Hill asked town officials to bring comparable rates from other towns to the public hearing to help clear up any concerns surrounding the rate increase.
Construction is slated to begin as soon as possible, officials said.
The new wastewater plant will be built by Mitchell and Stark Construction Co., which presented the lowest construction estimate at $2.9 million. Soft costs for the project, including engineering and design fees, are expected to cost about $1 million, bringing the project’s total cost to about $4.1 million.