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G'town gets reprieve on rate, for now

May 27, 2009
The Town of Georgetown is still feeling the heat, but the flame has been turned down for a while due to a decision by the New Albany City Council last Thursday evening to postpone voting on an ordinance that drastically would increase the sewer bills for Georgetown residents.

The New Albany Sewer Board announced the decision to raise Georgetown's sewer rates just days earlier, but the final decision rests with the city council.

Operating under a contract with New Albany, Georgetown's sewage is sent to the treatment facility in New Albany to be processed. But an agreement was reached with New Albany in 2006 that would release Georgetown from the contract if the town agreed to begin construction of its own wastewater treatment plant by this year. Otherwise, Georgetown would face increased sewage rates and a $450,000 fine.

A former Georgetown town council made the agreement with New Albany and bought a 23-acre tract of land near Edwardsville, known as the O'Brien property, in hopes of building a new treatment plant there. But opposition from a group of residents in Edwardsville stopped the project before construction started.

"But everything has been stuck in court since because of the fight against annexation," Billy Stewart, Georgetown Town Council president, said.

"We have looked at 10 different sites for a new plant and have narrowed it down to five sites now. We have to get appraisals and surveys and do some engineering on the sites before we can really know which ones we can afford to buy. Floyd County has to allow a zoning change on the property, and all of these things take time. It's really impossible to meet their timelines. We would have been a lot farther along if everything wasn't stuck in court."

Stewart said the sewage rate that the New Albany Sewer Board asked for would more than double the present rate from $3.11 per 1,000 gallons to $6.74 per 1,000.

"This would increase our citizens' average rate from $74.25 a month to $98.65 a month," Stewart said.

"I think the rate increase would be a significant hardship on the people here," Emma Jean Allen, who owns an antique store in Georgetown, said. "And a rate that high would have an impact on property values here."

Stewart said the town was going to continue to work toward building a plant, and hopes New Albany and Floyd County will work with the town in meeting that goal.

"It'll be better for everyone if New Albany and Floyd County works with us on this," Stewart said. "How would it benefit them to bankrupt Georgetown? If they hit us with fines, we can't pay and sewage rates we can't afford, they'll have to take us to court, and we'll go bankrupt. But if they work with us, everyone will eventually get what they want."

The New Albany City Council Thursday night postponed the matter until it gets more information. It set a public work session for June 10 at 6 p.m. to bring the parties together and work toward a resolution.

"I was really pleased that the New Albany City Council saw our point and didn't take action on the issue," Stewart said.

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