New Carlisle debates paying for $700K repairs after rate hike rejected

  • Parker Perry
  • Staff Writer
6:00 a.m. Tuesday, April 4, 2017 Politics

New Carlisle leaders are looking for options to pay for $600,000 t0 $700,000 in repairs to one of the city’s water towers after rejecting a proposal to raise water rates to do so.

Much of the cost would go to painting, maintaining and upgrading the water tower on Scarff Road. Officials are looking at demolishing the water tower on Adams Street as it is older and would cost a significant amount to repair.

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City council denied a proposal to raise water rates more than 38 percent over three years last month and asked that more research be done to find alternative ways to pay for the services before putting it on the back of utility users.

Howie Kitko, New Carlisle director of public service, said the Scarff water tower was put online in 1975 and needs to undergo a paint job to protect the infrastructure

“The coating system lasted this long so it was a good coating system and now it’s time to be re-coated,” he said.

The paint job and upgrades aren’t a luxury but a necessity, Utility Service Group spokesman Daryl Bowling said. The maintenance is needed to protect the integrity of the structure and protect the water tower from UV rays, he said.

The water tower on Scarff Road should be a priority for the city, Bowling said. The inside of the tower is still in stable shape and may last for up to four years, however the outside needs to be painted soon.

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“You can visually see it is pretty well expired and is at the end of its useful life and by waiting, it will only cost more money at this point,” he said.

The council can either find a way to pay for the service soon and prevent further costs, or Bowling said if they wait, run the risk of having to blast all the paint off the structure and start over. The blast would be more costly and lead has been found on the tower. He said blasting the paint down to the steel would trigger the need of Environmental Protection Agency and hazmat help. The additional aide would come at more cost.

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New Carlisle Mayor Mike Lowery said the council members rejected raising utility rates because it was the right thing to do for the residents of New Carlisle.

“For the most part everybody felt it was our responsibility to vote it down and go back to the drawing board and make sure we did not miss any other routes,” Lowery said.

The proposed increase would have taken place over the course of three years. The water rates would have risen 20 percent this year, 10 percent next year and 5 percent the year after that. That would have increased a current $100 water bill to $138.60 over the next three years.

The goal isn’t to put a burden on New Carlisle residents, Lowery said, but maintaining a healthy water supply is a priority in the city.

Residents weren’t totally in favor or raising rates and expressed that at the March meeting. Resident Matthew Mills said council needs to do a better job at informing residents before hiking rates.

“You are doing a disservice if you vote without first properly informing the citizens of the decision being made,” Mills said.

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Other residents at the meeting said many people in the community live on fixed incomes and cannot afford to see their water rates raised every year — especially by a large margin.

The city is still working hard to find a way to pay for the water tower repairs, Kitko said, in a way that will make sense for everyone.

“We have a lot to talk about,” Kitko said of the administration and council. “When we get to that point we see will what options are best for this.”

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