The Nashville Town Council and engineers for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources are working on a plan to connect more of Brown County State Park with town utilities — moves that could help stabilize town water and wastewater services for years to come.
The park already receives some utility services from Nashville. Expanding town water service and wastewater treatment have both been discussed in recent months.
Park representatives first approached the town about possibly getting water service back in the spring, said Nashville Strategic Direction Adviser Dax Norton. Last summer, the state park had to shut down for several days after torrential rain caused a flood at Ogle Lake. The lake is the water source for the park, and it was full of sediment after the flood, making water treatment difficult.
The conversation about wastewater treatment is newer, but the parties are past the point of a basic feasibility discussion, said Michael Matthias of DNR engineering. “I think it’s further than that,” he said. “The DNR, we want to do this.”
Council members and Norton spoke with two representatives of DNR engineering and Park Manager Doug Baird during a virtual public meeting Dec. 1.
The big unknown right now in terms of feasibility is what infrastructure will need to be upgraded in order to get the rest of Brown County State Park hooked onto town sewer and water.
To that end, the town is going to be working with an engineering firm, Curry & Associates, which has already been studying the park’s infrastructure.
Most of the park’s wastewater already comes to the town’s wastewater treatment plant off State Road 46 West. The park was actually the biggest town sewer user in 2019, sending 20,953,900 gallons to the plant per year. That fluctuates seasonally, but over the past three years, the park has accounted for about a quarter of all wastewater flow to the plant, according to the July 2020 town Sanitary Sewer Master Plan by MS Consultants.
The park also has its own, small wastewater treatment plant which takes care of the campgrounds, Matthias said. If it were taken out of service, the additional flow coming to the town would amount to another 30,000 gallons a day or so on average, with a peak of 40,000.
Matthias said he believed an upgrade of the town’s force main probably would be needed, based on its performance now in the park, but that will be further explored when Curry studies the system.
Plant operator Robin Willey said the town should be looking at the force main anyway to see if it’s capable of handling expansion in that area. Norton said he believes the line serving the park runs along State Road 46 West, and that’s an area identified in the town’s Sanitary Sewer Master Plan as a nearer-term priority to receive town sewer service.
On the water side, a Nashville Utilities supply line runs along the western and northern edges of Brown County State Park, according to a map included in a 2015 study of the town’s water system. More water lines likely would be needed.
DNR staff already have consulted with the Indiana Finance Authority and that agency has given them “positive feedback” on funding the water and wastewater projects, said Dale Gick, director of engineering for the DNR.
The DNR would like to move fairly quickly if possible, Gick said. They were talking about trying to get both projects under construction by late next fall.
The Nashville wastewater treatment plant is still required to make several fixes according to an agreed order with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. Those included some environmental problems that appeared because of the plant being so close to Salt Creek, as well as a long-known problem with “I and I,” or inflow and infiltration. That’s resulted in water that isn’t wastewater being allowed to enter the treatment system and wastewater being able to exit it from various cracks in the pipe network.
Those issues won’t preclude the park from hooking onto the wastewater system, Gick said.
Norton said the town is still working on fixing them. Right now they’re investigating funding opportunities. An exploratory rate study, seeing how much sewer rates would need to go up for the town to raise money to cover new bonds to do the work, showed average residential bills going up by $7.02 to $11.33 per month, depending on the amount the town wanted to borrow.
“This does not assume any grant money, which I think the town will be eligible for,” Norton said.
The town partnering with the state park on utility service would be a big plus for the future health of both utilities, he said.
“It certainly allows the utility to be well maintained with minimal rate increases,” he said. “There’s potential there.
“The thing that faces Nashville and Brown County is you need to do upgrades, but in today’s dollars, there’s no growth, so because there’s no new customers, you can’t spread that cost out like what urban communities have done. So, it gets caught up in this astronomically high rate to pay off the debt service to make the plant available in 2020 terms.”
What the utilities need — similar to what communities’ tax bases need — are larger customers that are going to pay larger shares of the rate so that the burden is lower on smaller, individual users, he said. That’s what the park partnership has the possibility to do for Nashville utilities.
“So yeah, it’s a big deal,” he said. “It’s a huge deal.”
Originally published by the Brown County Democrat