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Utility district to hold on future expansion

The LaGrange County Regional Utility District is not going to actively pursue further expansion for the foreseeable future. That was the consensus reached Friday afternoon during a special session meeting of the district’s board.

The question posed by Board President Ron Kantorak was whether or not the district needed to be proactive in seeking out where to put sewer systems in, or be more reactive to needs as they arise, such as new industrial sites. Kantorak pointed to Region C, which includes Howe, Twin Lakes, Cedar Lake and Pigeon Lake areas as one of the areas not currently covered by the district.

Engineer Steve Henschen told the board that Region C was actually one of the first areas studied in 1992 when the district was established. Other studies have been done throughout the 20-plus years. “The area is not as densely packed,” Henschen noted. The issue is getting enough users within a defined area to create the economy of scale needed to make a project affordable. During one of the latest studies of the Region C area, rates were estimated at $85 or higher based on the number of possible users in the area.

Henschen said they looked at a variety of systems and combining areas. “Even combining areas, there was not much savings to be found,” he added. Overall, he told the board, it did not make economic sense.

Legal counsel John Gastineau told the board that he felt the board didn’t have much choice in further expansion as new state laws that take affect this week have made it harder to start a new project, unless the district would be able to get full voluntary participation.

He noted that, during the early days of Indiana history, roads were done on a subscription basis as those living along the roads paid to have them built. “My opinion is you’ll have to do something similar,” he said of any future project. “You will need to get owners to sign contracts prior to starting the project. I don’t know if you can get enough for economies of scale.”

Gastineau added that the district had done the areas where they could get the economies of scale needed.

The board also discussed upcoming monetary needs as the older systems will need additional maintenance and replacement. They also discussed paying bonds off early compared to other investments, with an eye toward how interest rates may be changing.

During Friday’s meeting, the board also discussed setting up various committees, including a communication committee to work on letting the public know more of what the district is doing throughout the year.