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Argument continues on G'town sewer plant

May 28, 2008
The wastewater treatment plant was once again a hot topic at the monthly meeting of the Georgetown Town Council meeting on Tuesday, May 20. Even after a state appeals court sided with Georgetown on the issue and the battle may be over, there are still a lot of hurt feelings and even anger over the location of the proposed plant.

Billy Stewart, council president, spoke to the audience, including some Edwardsville residents, about the issue, seemingly to smooth things over. However, the attempt may have been premature, as some of those in attendance weren't ready to call a truce.

"The ball is rolling downhill," Stewart said. "We have to act on this. There is no magic wand that we can wave and make this problem go away. The people in Georgetown just don't have the money to pay for increased sewage rates."

An agreement with New Albany that Georgetown signed in August 2006 requires Georgetown to build a wastewater treatment plant by February 2009, or New Albany could force increased sewage rates on the town, changing the rates from wholesale to retail. This change could cause an increase of up to 350 percent on Georgetown residents. The town is also facing a $450,000 fine if the plant isn't built.

Although it has been said by some, including a few New Albany officials, that Georgetown should build its plant on the west side of town due to that area being downhill from the town, Stewart indicated that was something that would make little difference, considering the design of the current sewage line system.

"Our system is designed to pump uphill," Stewart said. "And the ideal placement of the plant would be at the O'Brien property, which is near our liftstation on the east side of town. We'll do everything we can to accommodate you people, but we don't have the money to pay New Albany — and we don't have time to waste."

Judy Gresham, who represents the group Edwardsville Community Inc., was quick to question the town's plans.

"Where were you people when the former board was making decisions?" Gresham asked. "I have fought this for three years. You should have stood up to the old board. They were rude. If you people go ahead and build a plant there, and if the smell comes, it'll be too late."

"It's already too late," Stewart said. "New Albany wants us gone. There's no incentive to keep us. And we have to do what's best for Georgetown."

"I don't think that's what is best," Gresham responded.

Gary Smith, former town council president, was in the audience and offered "a little history lesson" on the issue.

"In 1983, Georgetown could have built a wastewater treatment plant for $12.50 a month," Smith said. "About 95 percent of the cost to build it would have been grant funded. But it was voted down. In 1988, I came on the council and we got a letter from IDEM (Indiana Department of Environmental Management) telling us that we had to do something, or get the process started, or face a fine of $10,000 a day."

The houses in Georgetown were on septic tanks and, during that time, the state began enforcing a law that sewage water could not be allowed to enter groundwater; therefore, any towns that still used septic tanks could have the solids pumped out regularly, but that the liquids that flowed to the systems had to be treated.

"They gave us a choice," Smith continued. " We could build a wastewater treatment plant, or we could pay New Albany to treat it for us. We opted at the time to go with New Albany, and they were glad to get us at the time — they needed our money."

Councilman Everett Pullen then told the audience that the town was between a rock and a hard place.

"I don't want to build this plant," Pullen said, "but we don't have a choice. We tried to deal with New Albany, and they don't want to talk to us. It's the same with the (Floyd County) commissioners; they don't want to talk to us. But it's not a matter of if the septic systems will fail, but when. What then? But I understand why you're upset."

"We've worked hard for what we have," Gresham responded. "I wish this all could be done peacefully and with dignity and pride."

"We're trying to be good people," Stewart answered. "We want to work with our neighbors."

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