The Brown County Regional Sewer District has settled on a wastewater treatment option for Bean Blossom and Woodland Lake and could begin applying for grants within the next year.
The plan calls for a sewer system that will run from the northernmost intersection of Old Settlers Road and State Road 135 North, south to Gatesville Road.
It would then follow Gatesville and Bittersweet roads, and parallel a power line right-of-way that crosses east to Woodland Lake.
Wastewater would be treated in the Bean Blossom area. The sewer district would build a plant; where it would go has not been identified, said project engineer Gary Ladd.
The board called residents along the route of the proposed sewer line into a meeting Aug. 2 to talk about the options.
While most of the cost of construction is expected to be covered by a grant, 25 percent or more would have to come from a low-interest loan through the State Revolving Loan Fund or the United States Department of Agriculture.
That loan would be repaid through the monthly sewer rate paid by customers.
Ladd estimated a $65 monthly charge. That’s the best-case scenario.
If the grants the board is expecting didn’t pan out, the monthly cost would be more like $225.
The board said it would not pursue the project if monthly rates reached that high.
This is the second time the board has reached the grant proposal stage.
Last time, the plan was halted because of not having enough customers, said Vicki Perry, state director of the Indiana Rural Community Assistance Program.
Before its name was changed to the Brown County Regional Sewer District, the board represented the Bean Blossom Regional Sewer District. The funding agency they approached with their plan said they did not have enough customers to spread out the cost of sewer service, Perry said.
That’s why the Brown County Commissioners expanded the sewer district, giving the sewer board jurisdiction of any part of the county not currently already in a sewer district, and why Woodland Lake became a part of this project, said former board member John Kennard.
If the grant application is approved, the only thing that could stop the sewer plan at this point would be a remonstrance by residents, Perry said.
Bean Blossom resident Jack Altop decided not to attend the Aug. 2 sewer information meeting. He said he’s completely opposed to the sewer idea, and he didn’t believe his attendance would change anything.
Altop said he was forced to replace his septic in Bean Blossom within the past few years after the health department identified it as failing.
He also has had experience with mandated sewer hookups at a property he owns near Indianapolis. He now pays $83 a month for sewer at that property, even though it’s an unoccupied rental, he said.
Brown County Regional Sewer Board members have said they do not want to force people to connect to the sewer if they don’t want to. But legally, the board is not obligated to seek consent from property owners.
Under state law, the board is able to require residents connect to the sewer even if they have a functioning septic system.
That mandate would affect structures that produce wastewater and are within 300 feet of the sewer line. However, if the property touches a body of water, the 300 feet would be measured from the property line, regardless of the location of any structures.
According to state law, owners with a functioning septic less than 20 years old can apply for a series of exemptions for up to 20 years, but the exemption cannot extend past 20 years from the date the septic was first installed.
Some owners with large parcels capable of locating multiple septics also may also be able to seek an exemption under state law.
Altop said he wondered why the sewer board did not just hook into the sewer that exists down State Road 45 in Helmsburg instead of building something of their own.
The sewer board has looked at running lines to Helmsburg several times in the past.
Using figures from 2009, Ladd concluded that because of the capacity and condition of that plant, it would need to be replaced.
The estimated daily flow from Bean Blossom and Woodland Lake is almost double the entire capacity of the Helmsburg plant.
However, Ladd’s report uses information on Helmsburg’s plant that hasn’t been updated since 2009. Since then, Helmsburg’s largest sewer customer, the For Bare Feet sock factory, has moved out of the area, and the Helmsburg Sewer District has updated, improved and completely replaced sections of the plant.
Working with the Brown County Regional Sewer District to build a new plant would incur new debt for Helmsburg, according to Ladd’s report, which would raise the monthly rates of Helmsburg sewer customers.
The Brown County Regional Sewer Board also considered piping Bean Blossom area wastewater to Nashville’s plant. Even at peak times, Nashville’s spare capacity is more than double what would be coming from Bean Blossom.
In late 2015, the regional sewer board told the town that they were the preferred option to provide service to Bean Blossom, depending on what the town would charge the district to treat its wastewater.
According to Ladd’s estimates, building a treatment plant in Bean Blossom would be $410,273 cheaper than piping wastewater to Nashville. However, the construction cost is only part of the equation.
Annual, recurring costs, like maintenance, labor and energy, would be $17,285 less each year by using the existing Nashville plant rather than operating a plant in Bean Blossom, Ladd’s numbers show.
Ladd’s estimates on the Nashville option also do not take into account the possibility of adding customers along the route from Bean Blossom to Nashville, which would lower the monthly rate for each customer.
For now, the board has decided on a Bean Blossom treatment plant as the preferred option.
The board is still open to adding customers if people in the surrounding area are interested, said Jim Schultz, Brown County Redevelopment Commission member and husband to sewer district board member Terry Schultz.
Jim Schultz said that offer to hook on will expire once the board gets closer to preparing a grant proposal. He encouraged people who want sewer service extended to them to try to find neighbors who are also interested.