Brownstown Town Council votes to forgo $4,800 sewer tap-on fee for judicial building project

BROWNSTOWN

After consulting with its attorney, the Brownstown Town Council decided to grant a one-time waiver for the sewer tap-on fee for the judicial center project in town.

According to a town ordinance, attorney Rodney Farrow said the rates and charges for governmental agencies for services rendered to the town are $4,800 if the building is in town limits and $7,200 outside. That allows for a 6-inch sewer connection.

Farrow told the council since it’s the controlling entity of the town’s sewer department, it can vote to make an exception to the ordinance.

Following some discussion, that passed 3-1 with Councilman Bill Sweeney casting the lone nay vote.

“Now, does that set a precedence? Certainly, it does,” Farrow said.

If another governmental agency, such as a school or a library, asks for a one-time waiver, the council would be obligated to grant it.

“If you want to live with that later on, it’s up to you all,” Farrow said.

“I think that’s a good precedence to set, in my own opinion,” council President Sally Lawson said.

After talking to Brownstown Wastewater Utility Superintendent Scott Hunsucker to learn how the tap-on works, Lawson said she was in favor of the one-time fee waiving for governmental agencies.

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.

“It seems like if there are problems later, we would just work with the county to find out what’s the cost of the repairs and evaluate it at that point,” Lawson said.

Clerk-Treasurer David Willey said it’s the town’s responsibility if it involves the mainline, while it’s the customer’s concern if it’s a lateral.

Lawson also was in favor of the one-time waiver for the judicial center because the tap-on fee essentially is being paid by the taxpayers because it will be paid for with the bond the county has for the $12.1 million project.

She said county officials are doing what they can to keep the bond as low as possible for the project, and they put in a lot of work to get the judicial center in Brownstown.

In August, the council voted 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. 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.

During that meeting, Sweeney 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.

At an October meeting, Jackson County Commissioner Drew Markel asked the council to again consider waiving the sewer tap-on fee. The council chose to table the issue until this month’s first meeting to consult with Farrow.

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, and 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.

The town also is 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.

The judicial center project is expected to take 18 months to complete.

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