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G'town to seek appraisals on wastewater plant sites

June 17, 2009
In its regular monthly meeting June 8, the Georgetown Town Council took steps to continue its quest to build a wastewater treatment plant by passing resolutions to begin appraisals on three properties on the west side of town.

Although the town board was careful not to name the properties or reveal the exact locations, the resolutions would set up the appraisal process and steer the town to the most acceptable site.

"This does not commit us to build on any of the sites," Billy Stewart, president of the council, said. "The property owners have been notified, and this will show that we have an interest in purchasing."

The board went on to pass a resolution that relieves the builder who was hired to build the wastewater treatment plant on the O'Brien property of any obligation to construct a plant. The O'Brien property is no longer considered an acceptable site for the town to build a plant due to legal challenges and no chance of changing zoning on the land. It has not been determined what plans the town has for the property, which was purchased for $350,000 in 2006.

The board also agreed to sign another one-year lease to keep the town hall at its present location. No decision has been made on the old town hall, which was closed last year due to the unsafe condition of the building. The council also agreed to liquidate the town's broadband utility.

Two days later, on June 10, the New Albany City Council conducted a work session with Georgetown officials and the New Albany Sewer Board in an effort to bring the two sides together on a proposed sewer rate increase. In an agreement with the New Albany Sewer Board in 2005, Georgetown officials promised to build its own wastewater treatment plant and stop sending wastewater to New Albany, or the town would pay a fine of $450,000 to New Albany and face a sewage rate increase.

Last month, the New Albany Sewer Board voted to raise the rate Georgetown pays for wastewater treatment from wholesale to retail, bill the town for the $450,000 fine and charge Georgetown $7,500 per month as long as the town remains on New Albany's sewer system. The New Albany City Council work session was scheduled in an attempt to bring the two sides together and reach an agreement after the sewer board announced the increases.

"We're not a retail customer," Stewart told the council. "It costs a lot of money to operate our wastewater collection system. We pay New Albany $15,138 a month to treat our wastewater. It cost us $85,000 a month to operate our system. We have pumps in all the holes, and the solids have to be pumped out. Georgetown pays for all of that. We're a town, not a retail customer."

Stewart went on to say that there was no way the town's 1,200 residents could afford the kind of increase in sewer rates the New Albany Sewer Board was proposing.

The sewer board officials indicated that they didn't want Georgetown off their system; rather, it was Georgetown that wanted to build its own plant.

But when asked by council members if Georgetown would benefit by staying on New Albany's system, George-town's attorney, D.A. Andrews, answered, "We're in deep in this (building a plant). Maybe too deep to get out."

Andrews also indicated that Georgetown may agree to a tier schedule of penalty payments for remaining on New Albany's sewers.

Stewart said that maybe former town council members were naive enough to believe that a wastewater treatment plant could be built in four years.

"But that didn't happen," he added. "They ran into roadblocks. George-own would love to get off the system, and, with the county on our side, we can move forward."

"This has been going on a long time," New Albany Council President Dan Coffey said.

The New Albany Council then agreed to wait 60 days before approving a sewer rate increase, giving George-town and the New Albany Sewer Board time to work out a plan suitable for both sides. Ron Carroll, president of the sewer board, indicated that the sewer board would be willing to work with Georgetown on an agreement.

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