County works on center’s sewer fee: Officials make 2nd try to get tap-on fee waived

BROWNSTOWN

In an effort to keep the Jackson County Judicial Center project within budget, county officials are seeking a little help from the Brownstown Town Council.

The council voted in August to waive the design review fee of $1,500 but not the sewer tap-on fee of $4,800.

The design review fee covers work an engineering firm puts in to check the site of a large project to ensure infrastructure can handle projected capacity. Clerk-Treasurer David Willey said when a design review is needed for a project, the town typically has paid for it because an engineering firm is hired to do capacity studies and other work.

The tap-on fee is charged to cover future repairs and maintenance of the sewer line and collection system. The amount of the fee is based on the size of the pipe and line and what type of entity will be using them.

Jackson County Commissioner Drew Markel recently asked the council to again consider waiving the sewer tap-on fee, which is essentially being paid by the taxpayers because it will be paid for with the bond the county has for the $12.1 million project.

Council President Sally Lawson said she thought it was worth revisiting based on the economic impact the judicial center will have on the town.

Moving Jackson Superior Court I from Seymour to the county seat will bring 300-plus more people to Brownstown when it’s in session, Markel said. The building also will house Jackson Circuit Court and Jackson Superior Court II. Also, a fourth courtroom will have a judge to handle traffic tickets when the Interstate 65 weigh stations just north of Seymour are completed and operational.

Town and county officials are working together to bring businesses to Brownstown to meet the needs of those people. Lawson said law firms already have expressed interested in setting up shop in town, and there will be a need for more restaurants, too.

“I will just say a lot of work went into getting this in Brownstown and making it work for the town of Brownstown, and there was quite a large amount of pushback for this courthouse being in Brownstown,” Markel said.

The town has an ordinance that lists the different rates for sewer tap-on fees, and that includes governmental agencies. Town attorney Rodney Farrow told the council in August that an exception could be made to the ordinance if the council wanted to waive the fee.

After talking to Brownstown Wastewater Utility Superintendent Scott Hunsucker a second time to learn how the tap-on works, Lawson said she thought the council could do a one-time fee waiving for governmental agencies.

She also knew county officials are doing what they can to keep the bond as low as possible for the project.

“They fought really hard to be in Brownstown, so I kind of wanted to see what we could do to help out,” Lawson said.

Councilman Gregg Goshorn said if the council offers the one-time fee waiving, it would be setting a precedence moving forward. He wanted to seek Farrow’s opinion on it and get the correct verbiage so it would be solidified.

Councilman Bill Sweeney again expressed concern about waiving the $4,800 tap-on fee.

During the August meeting, he made a motion to not waive either of the fees, but it died for lack of a second. He then cast the lone dissenting vote when Councilwoman Sharon Koch made a motion to waive the design review fee but not the sewer tap-on fee.

“It’s a big bite here,” Sweeney said. “We’ve got this much money that we charge anybody else. This is the first time we’ve ever had anything like this, and I don’t want to just make this judgment right here. I want to think about this.”

The council agreed to table the issue so it can consult with Farrow during the next meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. Nov. 6 at the town hall.

Markel said he appreciated the town supporting the judicial center project with local option income tax money.

Earlier this year, Brownstown, Crothersville and Medora signed an agreement with the county to provide 25 percent of their shares of LOIT economic development revenue annually for the project. Seymour City Council members, however, unanimously voted against entering into the agreement.

A county economic development income tax at a rate of 25 cents per $100 of income was put in place in 1998 to help fund construction of the jail and juvenile center, both of which are in Brownstown.

At that time, each of the county’s four municipalities also received revenue from the tax and agreed to give up 25 cents of their shares to help with the project. That $10 million project will be paid off in 2018, freeing up revenue to fund the judicial center.

Markel also presented drawings of the judicial center to the council. The project is expected to take 18 months to complete.

With the amount of traffic that will be around the courthouse and judicial center, Markel said they are working to get as much space for parking as possible. The Peoples Bank agreed to lease a lot it owns along Main Street or U.S. 50 for $1 so construction workers can park there and walk over to the job site.

Markel and Lawson also both talked about how town and county entities have come together to talk about the impact of the judicial center and how the partnership moving forward will be important.

They have discussed grant opportunities to get facades and buildings redone to draw in businesses and help the town’s aesthetic appeal.

“By the end of next year, I think it will be a whole different Brownstown,” Lawson said.

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.