NORTH WEBSTER – After introductions and discussion about organization, the Tippecanoe Chapman Regional Sewer District Board of Trustees learned the next steps and potential costs of its sewer treatment facility project at its initial meeting Saturday at the North Webster Community Center.
Board members include Bob Weaver, Kosciusko County Health Department, who lives on Little Tippecanoe Lake; Jeff Thornburg, Tippecanoe Lake resident, founding member of The Watershed Foundation; Jon Tyler, Tippecanoe Lake; Chuck Simpson, Chapman Lake, co-owner of Union Tool in Warsaw; and Ed Ormsby, attorney, Chapman Lake.
Not present was board member Kim Hathaway. The seventh and final board member will be appointed by the sewer treatment provider once that provider is selected.
County attorney Chad Miner, who facilitated Saturday’s meeting, said, “One of the issues that we have is that, in putting the petition together and getting approval from IDEM (Indiana Department of Environmen-tal Management) for the project, we basically designated a couple possible treatment providers – basically, Warsaw, Lakeland (Regional Sewer District) and then a possibility the district may create its own treatment facility.” He said whoever that treatment provider ends up being, they will appoint a trustee to the board. “At this point in time, the determination has not been made as to whether that treatment provider will be Warsaw or Lakeland.”
Miner then gave the oaths of office to the five present board members. Since it was the first time the board members met each other, the election of officers was tabled to the April 13 meeting.
Miner then reviewed the proposed bylaws of the Tippecanoe Chapman Regional Sewer District (TCRSD), which the board will have to approve. Ormsby said, “Typically, bylaws would include indemnification for the trustees if there’s any kind of litigation.” Miner said he would add that to the bylaws and send them back out to the board.
The board decided that future meetings will be at 6:30 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the North Webster Community Center. Miner said the TCRSD board is subject to the Open Door Law, so notice of the meetings have to be published. Saturday’s meeting was published, and Miner said he will take care of publishing notice of this year’s meetings.
Another topic Miner covered was on the mission statement of the TCRSD. Ken Jones, of engineering firm Jones Petrie Rafinski, said the mission statement can be simple and it’s not binding, but it just becomes part of the sewer district’s branding. “It’s not something you have to do upfront,” Jones said.
The board will have to appoint its district advisers for legal, financial and engineering. Jones said the board usually votes on those, so that could potentially be done at the April meeting after the election of officers. Up to now, Jones served as the engineer on the project; Jeff Rowe, of Baker Tilly, and Patricia Zelmer, partner IceMiller, have helped with bonding and other legal work; while Miner has provided legal counsel. Miner said all would probably be willing to continue working on the project if the board wanted. Ormsby asked that they all provide proposed engagements to the board members before the April meeting so those could be reviewed in advance.
Jones then led the board in project discussion on the facility plan and timelines.
At the board’s second meeting, he said they’d like to confirm the district’s initiating project scope and have the board decide on who it wants to approach as a treatment provider.
“In the project, we did an analysis that included two options for collecting wastewater and three options for treating wastewater,” Jones said. “Those options included the potential for connection to the Lakeland Regional Sewer District, which is the Barbee Chain, their new treatment facility; then we looked at a connection to the city of Warsaw; and then we also looked at the construction of a new wastewater plant.”
The costs for a low-pressure sewer system, which Jones Petrie Rafinski is recommending initially for the collection system, and the treatment system at Lakeland would be about $42 million, Jones said. The biggest issue with going with Lakeland would be “we would have to go in and add a whole other treatment trane and upgrade some of the equipment that’s there and this would all be within their treatment complex. So we’re basically doubling the size of their wastewater treatment plant.”
Costs assumes both lake communities are done as one project.
If TCRSD connects to the city of Warsaw, on the southwest side of Chapman Lake, the costs would be around $37.5 million.
Warsaw Utility Superintendent Brian Davison told the board that Warsaw currently has three contract customers – town of Winona Lake, town of Leesburg and a trailer park that sits outside the city. Each one decides how much capacity they want to buy.
A new wastewater treatment plant, built somewhere in the close proximity to both service areas, would be around $39.4 million, but Jones said it’s the option “we’d probably shy away from. If we can partner with a treatment provider, it seems like it’s more cost effective.”
Other considerations, Jones said, include cost of operations, cost of interlocal rates and cost of the capital buy-in to each treatment provider. “So right now we’re looking at the raw capital costs,” he said.
Ormsby asked, “Can you explain to us how, if we regionalize with Lakeland or with Warsaw, how does ownership work? How do the supplemental rates work? What are the effects on that instead of having our own wastewater?”
Jones said in the case of regionalization, “You would normally be considered a bulk customer or an interlocal customer. ... Rarely do we see a customer the size of this become a customer by ordinance. It’s normally always by agreement. Rarely do we ever see that treatment provider elect to transfer any legal ownership of their assets in part to the customer, bulk or not.”
In the case of an interlocal agreement, Jones said the TCRSD would be subject to rate adjustments from the treatment provider, under certain conditions. The district would be entitled to notice, in-depth discussion and review about rates and how the rates were developed. “But under that agreement, you would be limited to what kind of leverage you would have to oppose rate increase that has been completely justified,” he said.
In Indiana, Jones said he’s never been party to a project where the interlocal customer and bulk treatment provider didn’t find a way to completely agree.
Zelmer said the state of Indiana “is encouraging regionalization very much so. We have many clients that have their sewer collected but treated by somebody else. And there’s long-term treatment agreements in place, and typically that’s because the entity that is collecting the sewer and sending it that way has issued debt, which is what this district is looking at doing – a long-term bond issue – to finance the project. And, particularly, the State Revolving Loan Fund program in Indiana, is very popular, very well run. They encourage regionalization and they have very good financing terms. I know that they’re used to this. They see these treatment agreements all the time. They would want to see that the length of the agreement would be as long as the bond issue.”
The bond issue could be between 20 to 40 years, Rowe said.
After discussion of the costs, Jones gave a tentative timeline of the project, which will be 36 to 48 months to complete.
The board agreed for Jones to get aerial photography of the area completed, for about $8,000. The engineering firm will absorb that cost for now. The firm also will begin social media on the TCRSD. The website is tippychapmanrsd.org.