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REPUBLISHED: Brown County Water Utility plans $9.3M in projects
Updated on: 07.29.14

Editor's note: This story was published on page A1 of the May 28 Brown County Democrat. It is being posted online now to help customers understand what plans the private, countywide water utility has for correcting its problems.


Brown County Water Utility wants to upgrade its aging infrastructure.

Its board of directors is considering 11 projects estimated to cost $9.3 million to correct water pressure issues, fix water leaks and reduce maintenance costs.

The public can comment on the proposed projects at a meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 29, at the utility office in Bean Blossom.

The projects are discussed in detail in a preliminary engineering report by Robert E. Curry & Associates of Danville.

Engineer Lori Young wrote the report. “Action must be taken in order to maintain the integrity of the water utility and provide improved reliability and water quality to customers,” she wrote.

The board wants to avoid increasing rates to pay for the projects.

The utility is about to pay off loans that will free up $433,000 annually to pay toward new debt. If not all the projects fit into the loan and grant(s) the utility receives, those projects will be adjusted.

The utility is considering funding from USDA Rural Development and the Indiana State Revolving Fund Loan Program. To do so, it must receive permission from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, and that requires a rate study, which is underway.

The projects

In the Spearsville and Peoga Road area, a lengthy section of 5-inch water main needs to be replaced with a 12-inch pipe. That would improve water flow and stabilize water pressure to customers.

The study calls for eliminating the aging Peoga water tank and using the newer, 250,000-gallon Spicer tank.

The Spearsville booster station, which is original equipment dating to 1970, would be replaced.

The older, smaller pipes in the distribution system create “bottlenecks” in flow. That’s the reason for wanting to replace the 2- and 4-inch water mains along Upper Salt Creek Road from Gold Point Road to Webber Road and from Sprunica Road to Ford Ridge Road with 8-inch pipe.

Another project is upgrading a 4-inch line with a 6-inch line along Upper Bean Blossom Road from Bell Road to Ayres Road.

The Three Story Hill Road water main could receive 10,000 feet of 12-inch pipe to replace the existing 8-inch water main.

As many as 2,400 residential water meters need to be replaced to allow for automated meter reading.

According to the study, a 10-inch water main from a heavily relied upon well to the water treatment plant should be upgraded to a 16-inch line to improve the water treatment process.

The study said the 150,000-gallon Carmel Ridge Lane water storage tank needs to be replaced with a 340,000-gallon tank in order to avoid customer complaints about water pressure problems.

Another tank replacement could take place on Lanam Ridge Road. It supplies most of the utility’s distribution system. The existing tank is 500,000 gallons and in poor condition inside and out. The study calls for a 750,000-gallon tank.

Replacing the 43-year-old Knob Hill booster station would allow for constant pressure and lead to the elimination of the Knob Hill water storage tank.

The study also identifies the need to replace and add additional air release valves and flush hydrants. About half of the existing ones are not fully working. The situation leads to water discoloration from iron because problems cannot be isolated; then, water is shut off to a large number of customers during repairs. It also means a large amount of treated water doesn’t make it to customers.

About 1,200 residential service lines from the water main to the meter need to be replaced, which should eliminate ongoing problems with leaks in high-pressure distribution areas.

The history

The not-for-profit rural water utility was started in 1964 and served about 600 customers in 1971. The past 50-plus years have seen considerable expansion. Including its largest customer — the Town of Nashville — the total number of residential customers is about 6,500.

Although the population in Brown County is projected to decline over the next 40 years, the utility anticipates the number of customers it serves will continue to grow. That is from a combination of people already in the service area not using the utility’s water and the potential for expansion beyond the system’s borders.

The Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business predicts the county’s population could drop from 15,393 in 2010 to 12,785 in 2050.

The engineering study projects adding 800 water customers by 2033.

BCWU’s service area is primarily Brown County, but the utility reaches into portions of Morgan, Johnson, Monroe and Bartholomew counties. It produces some of its own water and buys it from Jackson County Water Utility and Citizens Energy Group.

In 2012, BCWU started operating a $6.28 million water treatment facility. The cost of the plant was covered by a $5 million loan to be paid back over 40 years and a $1.28 million grant from the Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

Fixing the problems

The main problems facing Brown County Water Utility are a history of leaks and repairs, insufficient capacity, deterioration of infrastructure mostly due to age, and areas of high and low pressure.

“The growth of customers throughout the distribution system has created issues in some areas where the demand is greater than the capacity of the system to deliver water,” Young stated in the study.

In addition to the small, original pipes in the distribution system limiting water flow capacity, Brown County’s hilly terrain forces the utility to have pressure reducers and booster stations. Water flowing downhill must be slowed down and water needing to go uphill must be pushed. High pressure causes frequent leaks, and low pressure causes customers to complain, the study said.

Another consideration is the ground. Installing and maintaining lines in the shallow rock is expensive.

The oldest service lines leak three to four times a day, and that results in significant maintenance costs and loss of revenue. The utility loses an average of about 15 percent of its water, the study said.

Fire protection remains a concern in Brown County. The utility board recognizes that, and its members want to help the volunteer fire departments where possible. Part of the proposal could do that.

“As BCWU plans locations for installation of new flush hydrants, they will endeavor to coordinate some hydrant locations to enhance the ability to flush water mains and also provide a place to fill fire trucks,” Young wrote.

The utility board consists of Ben Phillips, David Weddle, Dan Huesman, Don Poynter, Gene Cooper, Bob Melton and Jim McDonald.

In a news release, Phillips stated: “The board and employees of Brown County Water are working to plan for the future. The proposed improvements to the water system will allow Brown County Water to provide improved service to our customers for years to come.”

Proposed projects for Brown County Water Utility

Spearsville-Peoga Road water transmission main and booster station: $1,592,080

Upper Salt Creek and Gold Point Road water main replacement: $397,160

Upper Bean Blossom Road water main replacement: $228,180

Three Story Hill Road water main replacement: $556,200

Replacement of 2,400 meters: $672,000

Replacement of raw water main and line flushing facilities: $483,300

Carmel Ridge Lane tank replacement: $555,000

Lanam Ridge Road tank replacement: $1,555,000

Knob Hill booster station replacement: $155,000

Replacement of distribution system valves and hydrants: $450,000

Replacement of service lines in high-pressure areas: $960,000

Total probable construction cost: $7,603,920

Construction contingency: $600,000

Non-construction costs (engineering, legal, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, etc.): $1,100,000

Probable total project cost: $9,303920

Source: Preliminary engineering report by Robert E. Curry & Associates

At a glance

Here is a summary of Brown County Water Utility’s distribution lines:

Water main size -- Length of pipe

Unknown -- 73,000 feet

¾ inch -- 1,800 feet

1 inch -- 22,800 feet

2 inch -- 331,700 feet

3 inch -- 259,400 feet

4 inch -- 554,100 feet

5 inch -- 54,000 feet

6 inch -- 378,000 feet

8 inch -- 277,300 feet

10 inch -- 14,000 feet

12 inch -- 84,500 feet

14 inch -- 36,500 feet

Total length: 2,287,100 feet or 433 miles

Source: Preliminary engineering report by Robert E. Curry & Associates

If you go

What: Meeting for customers to introduce Brown County Water Utility's proposal of 11 projects with an estimated cost of $9.3 million.

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 29.

Where: Brown County Water Utility office, 5130 State Road 135 North in Bean Blossom.

Preview it: Before the hearing, people can inspect the preliminary engineering report that details the projects at the utility office.

See Full List »

Carol Ann Spencer-Thomas, 73, Brown County
  Wife of Charles R. Thomas of Brown County

Robert 'Bob' F. Melton, 80, Brown County
  Husband of Annabelle Melton of Brown County

The Rev. John S. Honeay, 89, Greenwood
  Member of Unity Baptist Church and father of Barbara Ranard (Harvey) of Brown County

  • February 1
    'Wild' at the Playhouse
    4 p.m., 7 p.m. BC Playhouse, 70 S. Van Buren St.
  • February 2
    Gnaw Bone Sewage District
    5:30 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • February 3
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • February 3
    Open 12-step meetings in New Bellsville area
    6 to 7 p.m. Harmony Baptist Church, 3999 Mt. Liberty Road, New Bellesville
  • February 3
    Bean Blossom Regional Sewer Board
    7:30 p.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • February 3
    Women's Bible study offered
    1 to 3 p.m. Cornerstone Inn, 54 E. Franklin St.
  • February 4
    Lake Lemon Conservancy District annual meeting
    6 p.m. Benton Township Senior Center, 7616 E. State Road 45, Unionville
  • February 4
    Jeff Foster at Hobnob restaurant
    6 to 8 p.m. Hobnob, 17 W. Main St.
  • February 4
    Van Buren Township Advisory Board
    7 p.m. Van Buren trustee's office, 4748 Christianburg Road
  • February 4
    BC Emergency Management Advisory Council
    8 a.m. Ambulance Base, 53 State Road 46 East
  • February 5
    Go Club meeting Thursdays
    3:30 to 5 p.m. Brown County Public Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • February 5
    Jackson Township Board
    6 p.m. Jackson Fire Station, 4831 Helmsburg Road
  • February 6
    5 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • February 7
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • February 7
    Dave Miller at Abe Martin Lodge
    5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Abe Martin Lodge, Brown County State Park
  • February 7
    Karaoke at sports bar
    8 p.m. Salt Creek Golf Retreat, 2359 State Road 46 East
  • February 7
    Cabin Fever Concert features local music
    7 to midnight The Seasons Lodge, 560 State Road 46 East
  • February 9
    Washington Township Trustees
    7 p.m. Parkview Church of the Nazarene, 1750 State Road 46 East
  • February 9
    Reservation deadline for Valentine's tea at local shop
    Sweetea's Tea Shop, 225 S. Van Buren St., Suite C, Coachlight Square
  • February 10
    6 p.m. Sycamore Valley Center, 746 Memorial Drive (fairgrounds)
  • February 10
    Van Buren Fire Department
    6 p.m. Van Buren Fire Station, 4040 State Road 135 South
  • February 10
    Peaceful Valley Heritage Preservation Society meeting set
    6:30 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • February 10
    BC Genealogical Society meeting slated
    2 p.m. Brown County History Center, 90 E. Gould
  • February 11
    East Hill Cemetery meeting slated
    7 p.m. Morgantown Community Center, 269 W. Washington St.
  • February 12
    BC Convention & Visitors Commission
    8:30 a.m. County Office Building, 201 N. Locust Lane
  • February 13
    5 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North.
  • February 13
    Daddy-daughter Valentine's dance Friday the 13th
    6:30 p.m. Sweetea's Tea Shop, 225 S. Van Buren St., Suite C, Coachlight Square
  • February 14
    Free community breakfast at Sprunica church
    8 to 10 a.m. Sprunica Baptist Church, 3902 Sprunica Road
  • February 17
    Hamblen Trustee Board annual review
    6:30 p.m. 2314 Hickory Ridge Lane off Hornettown Road
  • February 19
    Woodlands project dinner, meeting slated
    6 p.m. Parkview Church of the Nazarene, 1750 State Road 46 East
  • February 20
    6 p.m. Fruitdale Fire Station, 5200 State Road 135 North, Bean Blossom
  • March 7
    Meet 'Wilderness Plots' author at the library
    7 p.m. Library, 205 N. Locust Lane
  • March 8
    'Wilderness Plots'-themed concert planned
    4 p.m. BCHS, 235 School House Lane
  • March 8
    Brown County bridal tour slated
    10 a.m. to 6 p.m. various locations
  • March 10
    Soil & water conservation district to celebrate 62 years
    6 p.m. Brown County History Center, 90 E. Gould
  • March 21
    Venders needed for Jackson TFD yard sale
    8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jackson Township Fire Department, 4831 Helmsburg Road
  • April 26
    County history center dedication slated
    2 p.m. Brown County History Center, 90 E. Gould