STAUNTON -- To little fanfare Monday, the Staunton Town Council passed a water rate increase for in-town residents.
The council met in June for a public hearing regarding the situation, but tabled the issue during that meeting after several residents expressed concern with the rate increase.
The council had sent out notice for the hearing, which included the increased rates in written form. The notice explained Ordinance No. 1-2012 (sewer rates) and No. 2-2012 (water rates).
During the June meeting, the council approved a sewer rate increase of 20 percent. At the same meeting, council members explained to residents the water rate increase -- for town residents only -- was needed in order to bring town residents up to the same rates currently paid by out-of-town customers.
During the June meeting, Council president Andy Kirchner said the cost of running the town's municipal utilities department were rising, hence the necessity for the rate increase.
A first reading of the ordinance took place in May.
Council member Brad Webster made the motion to accept the ordinance, with Ed Nevins giving the second. The ordinance was unanimously passed.
The water rate increase calls for a 20-percent increase for in-town residents only. Council members said they believed the increase would go into effect for the next billing cycle.
In March, Gov. Mitch Daniels signed into law a statute amending the Indiana Code concerning utilities. The law applied to municipally owned water utilities, wastewater utilities and combined water and wastewater utilities.
In situations where a municipal water or sewer utility charges out-of-town customers higher rates, the amendment granted jurisdiction to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to review the differences in the rates.
During the June meeting, council members explained to residents that out-of-town water customers had been paying an increased rate for several years.
The statute Gov. Daniels signed in March affects cities and towns that have been charging customers outside of their boundaries water and sewer rates that are 15 percent or more than customers inside the city or town.
According to the amendment, cities and towns have an opportunity to send a petition to the IURC to continue with grandfathered discrepancies between in-town and out-of-town water and sewage customers.
However, Staunton Town Attorney Traci Lawson said while this was discussed, council members wanted to make the rates the same.
Meanwhile, the council unanimously approved a measure to decrease the rental rates for the Staunton Community Center.
Earlier this year, the council raised the rental rate to $125. However, the center has not been used sufficiently enough to maintain the rate.
The council agreed to decrease the rate back to $75, with an additional $25 added on for those who rent the center and use the kitchen.
The council also discussed a water line issue along County Road 425 West.
According to officials, the current water line, one-and-a-half inches in size, is too small for the water pressure being used.
The council has started looking into replacing the water line with a larger line. Kirchner said he has received some notification from companies regarding this issue.
Officials learned Monday the original water line was put in place in the 1960s. However, the line has experienced several leaks lately, hence the need to replace it.
The council agreed to research the issue more and discuss it at its August meeting.
In other news, the council:
* Learned the Clay County Senior Citizen's Center had expressed interest in using the Staunton Community Center for musical events in the future. Officials with the senior center had approached council members recently, expressing interest in renting out the community center twice a month for events, and
* Heard a request from Staunton Water Works Supervisor Jake Raubuch that residents continue to conserve water with the recent drought the area has experienced.
The council meets regularly on the second Monday of each month at the Staunton Community Center. Its next meeting is scheduled to take place at 7 p.m., Aug. 13.