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Public hearing on new sewer system Wednesday

As plans for a sewer collection system that will stretch from the Indiana Toll Road service plazas past Cedar Lake and encompass Howe move ahead, the LaGrange County Regional Utility District will hold a public hearing next Wednesday, Dec. 6. The hearing, which will begin at 6 p.m. in the Howe Military Academy Bouton Auditorium, will give the public an opportunity to hear more details on the system as well as ask questions and make comments on the proposal.

Meanwhile, the preliminary engineering report, created by Jones, Petrie, Rafinski, is available at the district’s office, located at 116 E. Wayne St. in LaGrange. The large document contains information on the planned system, including maps showing where lines will run, evaluations of the various types of systems, and projected expenses and user fees.

The report looks at three different systems as well as evaluates the district taking no action in the area. The engineering report determined that taking no action was “not a feasible solution for the long term.” It noted that, with the need for wastewater service at the Toll Road Service Plaza, “providing service to the other service areas appears to be a feasible and affordable cost.”

The two stand-alone systems the engineers looked at, a gravity collection system and a pressure collection system, would each feed into a new wastewater treatment plant set to be located on the northwest corner of SR 9 and CR 700N. Major differences between the two, however, comes down to installation and costs.

With a gravity collection system, sewer lines are often installed with an “open-cut excavation” method that requires additional paving and restoration work, which increases the overall costs. The engineering report estimates the construction costs for a gravity collection system at just over $12 million. It also estimates that the annual operating, maintenance, and replacement costs for such a system at $143,954.

With a pressure collection system, which is the system being recommended in the preliminary report, it notes that the sewer lines are often installed through boring underground, which reduces the need for repaving and restoration. The estimated costs for a pressure system is just over $8 million. The estimated annual costs is slightly less as well, at $134,459.

A third option, to connect the new lines to the existing Fawn River Crossing system, was deemed impractical as waste from that system is actually transported to Sturgis, where it is treated. Any additional capacity that can be sent to Sturgis is being reserved for industrial growth, the report noted, and the agreement is limited to a specific area.

The report discusses the new wastewater treatment plant, noting that it plans to use a process that the district already uses at the district’s Region A treatment plant. According to the report, the district has found the process to be effective and reliable, allowing for a more cost-effective service.

The report also includes preliminary estimates for user fees in the new service area. The district is targeting a monthly rate of $72 per residence. Those estimates include $348,900 per month from the toll road service plazas. To hit that monthly target rate, and based on the estimated $15,828,100 overall construction costs, the district is looking for $4.5 million in grants from the state.

If the project moves ahead on the proposed schedule, land and easement acquisition could begin in September 2018, with bids received in November 2018. Construction could begin as early as April 2019, with the system online by August 2020.