Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 12, 2014

City wants to buy Tipton Co. sewer plant

Move would help city control growth to the south along US 31.

By Scott Smith Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — The city of Kokomo is moving to purchase a small wastewater plant in northern Tipton County in an effort to control development at the southern end of the new U.S. 31 bypass.

The Kokomo Common Council voted Monday to move forward with the purchase of Prairie Utilities Inc., which serves 53 customers near the intersection of U.S. 31 and Tipton County Road 600 North.

“We’re obviously looking beyond our city limits, and where there is future development going on, we want to be sure to protect our existing businesses,” city attorney Lawrence McCormack said. “We want to be sure any new business is adding to what we already have.”

McCormack said the city began looking at purchasing the $225,000 plant last year, when current owners Astbury Water Technology Inc., Indianapolis, filed for a rate increase with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and also signaled an intention to expand the plant’s potential coverage area.

The city filed a petition to intervene and while the rate case was under consideration, Astbury decided to sell, McCormack said.

If the council passes the purchase on a final vote March 24, the Prairie Utility ratepayers would pay the standard city sewer rate, plus a 25 percent surcharge the city charges customers who live outside the Kokomo city limits. The unmetered rate for single family residences is $36, McCormack said.

McCormack said the plant “is in pretty good shape,” and said he doesn’t expect the city will have to pay for significant repairs to it.

The plant’s proximity to the southern terminus of the U.S. 31 bypass could have implications for Kokomo’s efforts to prevent an exodus of commercial and retail development from Ind. 931. Without sewer service, any business would be limited to operating off a septic tank.

The plant doesn’t appear to be without problems, however.

Astbury received a notice of violation from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management Dec. 31, with state officials calling the operations of the plant “unsatisfactory.”

IDEM said plant operators were bypassing part of the treatment process and had self-reported multiple violations of limits on various pollutants. State officials asked for a corrective action plan to be filed within 30 days.

The city council will hold a public hearing on the plant purchase at 7 p.m. March 24 in council chambers, City Hall.

Scott Smith is on Twitter, @JasonSSmith1, and can be reached at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com