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March 15, 2013

LMU hopes to cut costs of sewers

Logan utilities superintendent expects large increase in rates.

LOGANSPORT — Logansport Municipal Utilities is working to reduce costs associated with its upcoming federally required sewer overhaul project.

The project is expected to take place over the next 15 years and cost an estimated $70 million. The first phase, which consists of installing new interceptor sewers throughout the city, applying synthetic liners to existing manholes and constructing a new equalization basin and a pumping station, is expected to be completed by end of summer 2014. The project is being done through a federally required, unfunded mandate in order to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System and the Clean Water Act.

Jim Jackson, manager of the Water, Wastewater, Stormwater Department at Logansport Municipal Utilities, said the project will reduce the amount of sewer overflows into the Wabash and Eel Rivers during and after storms.

Jackson said the way the system is now, when the area gets even a small amount of rain, it overloads the current collection system. The wastewater plant in turn gets more water coming in that can be processed, forcing the water to back up in sewers and ultimately drain into the Wabash and Eel Rivers.

Jackson said the Indiana Department of Environmental Management has approved design alterations for the project that allow for larger interceptor sewers and a smaller equalization basin and pumping station, reducing the estimated cost of the first phase of the project from about $13.8 million to about $8.9 million.

Jackson said he expects this phase of the project to begin this spring.

“We hope to hit the ground running as soon as the brace of the weather,” Jackson said. “We’re really anticipating in the next 60 days, things will start ramping up.”

Because the project is required by a federal unfunded mandate, in order to finance the project, LMU applied for a loan through the state’s revolving loan funds. LMU Superintendent Paul Hartman said after reducing the estimate for the project to under $10 million, LMU was able to get the loan’s interest rate down to 1.5 percent. Hartman also said LMU will only have to pay interest on the amount that is used rather than the entire loan, which could ultimately lead to more savings.

Despite the reduced estimate and interest rate, Hartman said the project will still have a devastating effect on the city.

“The city cannot afford this project,” Hartman said. “It’s going to bankrupt this entire community. It’s state mandated through a federal program and all we can do is try to reduce the amount of design and construction and project totals. Hopefully it’s a good effect for everybody in the community and we don’t see people leaving in droves.”

Hartman said paying off the loans for the project will result in an increase in customers’ stormwater fees.

“We’re looking to hover around $50 to $60 total for stormwater fees by the time we get all done with this by 2028,” Hartman said.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or mitchell.kirk@pharostribune.com.

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