Funding for the Charlestown Wastewater Treatment Plant improvements had a sizable boost with a $12 million contribution from the River Ridge Development Authority.
At Tuesday’s special Charlestown Sanitary Sewer Board meeting, the three-member board, chaired by Mayor Treva Hodges, unanimously adopted the funding support. The $12 million is destined to ease the burden on users and the city as the new plant and improvements are projected to cost an estimated $42 million to complete.
River Ridge, on Monday, authorized two memorandums of agreement to help finance the wastewater plant that not only services residents, but businesses located within the River Ridge Commerce Center. Jeffersonville will also receive $12 for wastewater improvements.
Accepting the $12 million is believed to be the largest single contribution to the City of Charlestown. Showing they are a true partner, River Ridge had also previously contributed $575,000 toward the design of the wastewater plant.
“It’s truly an honor to vote on both of these resolutions,” said Charlestown Mayor Treva Hodges. “This contribution to our communities by the RRDA reflects an ethic of care not often found in similar redevelopment initiatives. With last night’s votes, the RRDA Board has shown the residents of Clark County that we care about how the impact of the Commerce Center’s growth affects them and we’re committed to responsible redevelopment. I’m proud that these contributions will help keep sewer rates as low as possible for customers of the Charlestown sewer department and for our Charlestown residents who are served by the North Jeffersonville Wastewater Plant.”
The City of Charlestown Sanitation Dept. operated under significant losses in 2017 (-$227,464), 2018 (-$125,427), and 2019 (-$418,546). A rate study in 2020 by Baker Tilly proposed a rate increase of 256-percent to consumers to accurately fund not only the department, but also fund improvements and replace a deteriorating treatment plant.
“There’s simply no way I could agree to pass along such an exorbitant rate increase to our Charlestown customers,” said Charlestown Mayor Treva Hodges. “The department’s struggling finances and inflation costs of running the plant forced an increase, but I’ve been determined to identify external funding and assistance to make sure that we keep our rates as low as possible.”
The Common Council adopted rate increases of 47-percent in 2021 and 11-percent in 2022, both well below the proposal by Baker Tilly with the understanding the city would pursue additional money from other sources. Until 2021, rates had not changed in Charlestown since 2010, and they were actually reduced at that time. From the rate study, it was noted that for every $5 million in additional funding, the city could prevent substantial future increases.
“These are critical projects for the growth and ongoing success of River Ridge,” River Ridge Director Executive Director Jerry Acy said in a statement. “Adding treatment capacity at both treatment plants
will allow us to continue developing properties and attracting businesses in both the north and south sections of the River Ridge Commerce Center. We are pleased that with this financial support, our community partners will have the resources they need to move their respective projects forward.”
Design is in progress by Jacobi, Toombs and Lanz Engineers (JTL). One hundred percent design is already funded ($2.3 million). JTL said the design phase should be completed by the end of the year and bidding commences in early 2023.
The total Charlestown area served in River Ridge is 6,743 acres. Studies show River Ridge’s use of the utility would surpass half of the city’s current total capacity. The new facility capacity will grow from 2.1 million gallons to four million. River Ridge has identified several developers interested in industrial/commercial developments within the Charlestown service area of the Commerce Center, which would benefit from the planned expansion.
The City continues to apply for a variety of grants, including READI funding. Remaining funds from the water utility sale in 2019 are slated to fund the wastewater plant, along with bonds and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.