Bloomington city council OKs water rate increase, IU to try intervention with state regulators

At its Wednesday meeting, Bloomington’s city council approved a water rate increase for city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) customers.

This screenshot of the March 17, 2021 Bloomington city council meeting, conducted on Zoom, shows Vic Kelson, city of Bloomington utilities director.

The water rate increase will come in two phases, in 2022 and 2024. Residential customers will pay a total of 22 percent more over the course of four years.

Other customers like Indiana University, will see higher increases, around double what residential customers will see.

The 22-percent increase brings the residential customer rate to $4.54 for every 1,000 gallons.

After adding in increases for site charge and fire charge (from $5.89 to $6.58 and from $1.96 to $2.17) after the two phases of increase, an “average” 3,500-gallon residential customer would see a monthly increase of around $3.74 in water fees—from $20.91 to $24.64. That works out to about $45 more per year.

The water rate increase was not controversial for city councilmembers. It passed on a 9-0 vote.

As a separate ordinance, the city council approved the issuance of $17.2 million in revenue bonds, to support the capital improvement plan connected to the rate increase.

Customers will see higher bills starting in early 2022, if the water rate increase gets approval from the state.

All utilities rate increases have to be reviewed and approved by the state’s regulatory body, which is the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC).

CBU’s largest customer, which is Indiana University, will intervene with the IURC and try to lower the rate increase that applies to IU, which is about double the rate increase for residential customers. Continue reading “Bloomington city council OKs water rate increase, IU to try intervention with state regulators”

Grease is the word…at the end of FOG: Bloomington council revises law on how restaurants keep fats, oils out of sewer

An aerial view of the Dillman Road wastewater treatment facility south of Bloomington, where grease from the city’s FOG (fat, oil and grease) program can be hauled, where it oxidizes in the sun. (The image is dated April 2020 in the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s online property records.)

“The way we handle grease at the [Dillman Road wastewater treatment] plant, it’s actually discharged into a lagoon where it is oxidized in the sun.”

That was city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) director Vic Kelson talking to the Bloomington city council on Wednesday about the grease that about 600 local restaurants clean out of their traps and are allowed to haul to the city’s wastewater treatment plant south of town.

The item on the city council’s agenda was a change to the ordinance on the FOG (fats, oils, and grease) program, which requires restaurants (food service establishments) to use grease traps to keep it from clogging up the city’s sanitary sewer system. The ordinance change was approved unanimously.

After the ordinance change, the program is still in place but gives restaurants a cheaper option in grease retention devices. The revised ordinance also establishes a “preferred pumper program” for haulers to take the grease from the traps, which have to be cleaned out on a regular basis, down to the city’s Dillman road facility. Continue reading “Grease is the word…at the end of FOG: Bloomington council revises law on how restaurants keep fats, oils out of sewer”

Bloomington’s planned case for water rate increase delayed until early 2021

The average for each day from 2012 to 2019 is plotted in gray. For 2020, plotted in blue, the data have been smoothed out by calculating a 7-day rolling average.

One dollar is enough to make around 300 gallons of pour out of any residential faucet that’s hooked up to City of Bloomington Utilities (CBU) water.

The residential price of $3.69 per 1,000 gallons, like the rest of the city’s water rates, will stay in place for a while longer.

That bit of news was delivered by CBU director Vic Kelson at last Thursday night’s city council budget hearings. Kelson told the city council that before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, CBU had planned to bring a rate review to the city council in July this year.

Kelson said the current plan is to bring a rate increase proposal to the city council sometime in the first three months of 2021. It will also be reviewed by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC). Any approved water-rate changes would be implemented a year later, in early 2022.

CBU’s total proposed 2021 budget is about $43.3 million, which is made up of water ($17.7 million), sewer ($22.8 million), and stormwater ($3.1 million). That reflects and overall drop of 7 percent compared to 2020.

Continue reading “Bloomington’s planned case for water rate increase delayed until early 2021”

5th Bloomington city employee confirmed positive for COVID-19 since start of pandemic

There’s been a recent surge of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in Monroe County over the last few days.

One of them was a city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) employee, according to a press release issued on Tuesday afternoon.

According to the press release, the CBU employee “rarely interacts with members of the public in the course of their work.” The press release says that members of the public were not placed at risk of exposure by the employee who tested positive. Continue reading “5th Bloomington city employee confirmed positive for COVID-19 since start of pandemic”

Water you kidding? A 123-year-old main in downtown Bloomington gets replaced

cropped 2020-05-11 water main IMG_0414
On Monday morning, city of Bloomington Utilities (CBU) workers start the work of digging a trench in the middle of 6th Street, on the north segment of the courthouse square, for a water main replacement project. (Dave Askins/ Square Beacon)

Early Monday morning, city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) workers started work on the 6th Street segment of the downtown courthouse square. The project is to remove a water main from an alley and put a new one in the street to replace the old main’s service.

The 123-year-old pipe that’s being replaced is made of cast iron, public affairs specialist Holly McLauchlin said. That put to rest a speculation by The Square Beacon that the old pipe might be made of hollowed-out logs. Still, some wooden pipes from the Paris Dunning house project several years back had been saved by CBU, McLauchlin said.

The pipe dating from 1897 is the oldest one in the city, McLauchlin said. A press release issued later in the day said over 75 percent the city’s water mains are more than 50 years old. Continue reading “Water you kidding? A 123-year-old main in downtown Bloomington gets replaced”

Bloomington issues COVID-19 update for buses, utilities customer service

Late Friday, the city of Bloomington issued press releases about the way that public bus service  and utilities customer service will be altered starting next week, to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most Bloomington Transit buses will continue to run next week on their normal schedule. But the suspension of Indiana University classes means that BT will offer no service on Routes 7, 6-Limited and 9-Limited through March 29.

Routes 6 and 9 will continue operating on the university’s semester break schedules through March 29. BT Access, the agency’s para-transit service, will operate normally.

For water and sewer customers, the city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) customer service office on Miller Drive will be closed to walk-in service. According to the release, customers can still call (812) 349-3930 or send an email message to utilities.cs@bloomington.in.gov Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. The after-hours number is (812) 339-1444. Continue reading “Bloomington issues COVID-19 update for buses, utilities customer service”

Bloomington utilities to study pace of water main replacement: Is 2.5 miles of pipe a year enough?

On Tuesday night, Bloomington’s utilities director Vic Kelson presented the city council with a proposed $1.7 million for water main replacement as part of the department’s 2020 budget.  He described how that would pay to replace roughly 2.5 miles of pipe.

During the time for councilmember questions, Isabel Piedmont-Smith responded to the 2.5-mile figure by saying, “That does sound like very little.” Piedmont-Smith’s assessment was based on the roughly 420 miles of pipe in the system, and the frequency of recent high profile water main breaks.

At a press briefing on the Friday before the week of budget hearings, Mayor John Hamilton said the pace of water main replacement was not fast enough, because pipes don’t last as long as it will take to replace them all—if the current pace of replacement is maintained. About the 2.5 miles per year that has been budgeted for the last few years, Hamilton said, “That’s way better than it was five years ago, but is not good enough.”

At Tuesday’s city council session, utilities director Vic Kelson put the possibility of increasing the pace of water main replacement in the context of a possible rate increase. The current residential rate for City of Bloomington Utilities (CBU) is $3.73 per 1,000 gallons with a monthly $5.89 charge for a 5/8-inch meter. Any proposal for an increase in water rates has to be presented to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Bloomington’s rate case to the IURC is planned for 2020.

Kelson said as a part of the rate case, CBU would be evaluating whether the 2.5 miles of pipe a year is aggressive enough. Continue reading “Bloomington utilities to study pace of water main replacement: Is 2.5 miles of pipe a year enough?”