Columbus residents will soon begin seeing a 63% increase on their city sewer bills. But city officials are considering the tax hike a success.
Over two decades, this increase will fund the city’s new $40 million-plus wastewater plant. Yet Mayor Fred Armstrong says sewer taxes could have been much worse than the $13-a-month increase most users will see.
“I haven’t heard anything bad. Because I know people in the community realize we have to have this thing,” Armstrong said.
“We take things for granted. You know, you go in and flush and you think everything is going to be fine and it’s taken care. And at some point when it comes to the big end here, if it’s not working then we’re all in trouble.”
Armstrong says that’s because original estimates called for Columbus households to contribute $20 or more on each bill. The city has used the same wastewater plant since 1953, when Armstrong was six years old.
“And sometime, and I don’t know how this happened, but some time back in, you know, 1953… the prices have gone up. But fortunately far less than we had anticipated,” he said.
In fact, Armstrong says the mechanical parts needed to run the facility aren’t even manufactured anymore.
The five companies that bid for the project each came in below the 66-million dollar estimate the city put together last year. But since then construction material costs have come down considerably because building nationwide has slowed.
Armstrong says the city wanted to award the contract to a local company, but the lowest bid came from a Fishers-based outfit. Their $41 million offer is more than a third less than original estimates. Armstrong says he’s confident the company will be able to complete the project for that amount of money and does not foresee drastic cost over-runs.