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NASB delays decision on G'town sewer rate relief

November 19, 2008
Georgetown Town Attorney D.A. Andrews, Floyd County Commissioner Steve Bush and Floyd County Planner Don Lopp Thursday morning asked the New Albany Sewer Board for relief from contractual penalties — a possible 54-percent rate increase and a $450,000 fine — that will take effect on Feb. 1 if Georgetown, which currently is on New Albany's system, has not begun construction on a wastewater treatment plant.

Floyd County and Georgetown reached an agreement earlier this month that would move the site of the town's wastewater plant from the O'Brien property — a 23-acre stretch of land east of Georgetown due to be officially annexed into the town on Dec. 30 — to an alternative site west of town. Floyd County hopes to provide the funding for the additional costs of switching the site with a USDA Rural Development Loan up to $1.4 million.

The agreement will only hold up if the sewer board agrees to grant relief, if an alternative site is found, and if Floyd County is able to obtain the loan and finance the additional costs. This is why Floyd County, in the form of Bush and Lopp, joined Andrews in trying to persuade the board to extend the deadline of when the penalties occur and keep the settlement afloat.

Keeping in mind that Georgetown had been turned away once before by the sewer board when officials asked for relief because the town did not a have a satisfactory plan in place for when and where the plant would be built, Andrews told board members that he was not going to tell them "what we're going to do," but was going to give them a "status report on what we've done."

Andrews recapped the history of the O'Brien property saga and told the board that Floyd County and Georgetown reached an agreement that would move the wastewater plant site west of town.

Although he made a case for the property as the most economical location for a plant, Andrews said he recognized Floyd County's interest in the O'Brien property for residential development and not for an industrial site like a sewer plant and added that the most developable land between Edwardsville and Georgetown includes the O'Brien property.

"Floyd County wants to reserve the right to develop that land and increase the tax base through development," Andrews said.

Regarding a timeline, Andrews said that it probably would take one to two years before construction on a site west of town would begin because the act of setting up the Rural Development Loan, acquiring a new property with the funds from the loan, and obtaining the proper permits for the property would take considerable time. However, if the sewer board does not grant relief from contractual penalties and the settlement agreement between Georgetown and Floyd County is terminated as a result, Georgetown could begin construction of a plant on the O'Brien property almost immediately after it is annexed on Dec. 30 and have the plant completed within nine months, he said.

"We guarantee we will build a sewer plant, either west of town or on O'Brien," Andrews said.

Ron Carroll, president of the sewer board, sympathized with Georgetown's position, but said he has to keep the interests of New Albany residents in mind.

"We don't want to penalize the people (of Georgetown)," Carroll said. "I feel sorry for the homeowners."

Addressing Andrews' plea for relief, Carroll wanted to make clear that Georgetown was not asking for relief from the 22-percent rate increase that all New Albany wastewater system customers, including Georgetown, are about to face, but simply the contractual penalties of a $450,000 fine and a possible 54-percent rate increase. Andrews confirmed this was the case.

Carroll also wanted to know if Georgetown had an actual site for the plant. Andrews said the town was still in negotiations for choosing the best site, but informed the board that at least two parties had already approached Georgetown officials and volunteered their property.

After hearing all of Andrews' presentation, Carroll still wanted to know why Georgetown was moving the site to the west of town if O'Brien was the least expensive place to build.

Lopp answered that a sewer plant on the O'Brien site does not fit the county's comprehensive plan. Sewer plans and projections done in 1990 say that sewer plants should be built in the west part of the county, and the O'Brien property itself is zoned rural/residential and is part of an immediate growth area, he continued. Lopp also mentioned that the property is part of one of the county's "Gateway Districts," since it is so close to the I-64/S.R. 64 interchange.

Lopp's ultimate argument from the county's perspective is that it wants to build a long-range community facility that can be expanded to allow for more customers. He didn't think having small sewer plants all over the county would be good for future development.

Bush gave support to Lopp, saying the best location for a sewer plant would be west of town and asked the sewer board to grant relief for Georgetown so the residents would not have to pay a 54-percent rate increase that they can't afford.

However, the sewer board still wanted more concrete evidence that a plant was going to be built. It wanted a timeline and an actual site location.

In response, Andrews told the board that he and Lopp were attending a Rural Development meeting that morning to discuss the terms of the loan and said they would be able to come back to the board's Dec. 11 meeting with a concrete timeline and a location of the new plant.

That date also happens to the be last meeting of the sewer board this year. Since time is of the essence in the Floyd County-Georgetown agreement, because of the approaching Feb. 1 deadline for beginning construction on a plant, the failure of the New Albany Sewer Board to make a decision on whether or not to waive the contractual penalties at its next meeting will essentially be the same as a "no" vote and Georgetown would need to go forward with construction on the O'Brien site, after it is annexed on Dec. 30, to get a plant started as quickly as possible to avoid the penalties.

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