Carmel Utilities expanding, upgrading water service

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The Carmel City Council recently approved a $17 million bond to expand and improve water service throughout the city. It includes nearly $9.5 million to bring city water to residents in Home Place and areas on the west side of town that don’t have service.

“It’s the city’s goal to make water available across the city,” Carmel spokesperson Dan McFeely said. “There are still some areas not currently served, mostly in the Home Place area, but also some sporadic pockets of areas in the far east and far west parts of the city.”

The water line installation began this month and is expected to be complete in May 2021.

The city will charge $8,300 for Home Place property owners to connect to city water. Residents will not be forced to connect, but those that do have up to 30 years to pay the fee, which has an interest rate of 2.32 percent.

Carmel Utilities expects to repay the bonds through a combination of fees from homeowners that connect to city water, connection fees from new development and monthly water bills.

McFeely said that in previous annexations, 65 to 75 percent of residents chose to connect to city water within four years on average, with 80 percent connecting within seven years.

The bond includes more than $2.6 million for 36- and 16-inch transmission lines to serve Carmel’s west side and Meridian corridor. It also includes $1.6 million for a water main near 96th Street and College Avenue, $1.8 million for solar panels to be installed at two sites and $1.5 million to purchase the second floor of the Lurie Building, where Carmel Utilities is located.

“These are projects that are needed for now. I’m mindful of not taking on too much,” Carmel Utilites Director John Duffy told Carmel city councilors at a meeting in late 2019. “We do have other needs, but these projects get us to a good place in the next three to four years. It’s a good balance of not doing too much too soon.”

Flat rate explained for homes without meters

Peggy Giller has lived in her house near 96th Street and Michigan Road for more than 40 years, and she’s been happy with her choice to maintain the well that provides water to her home.

“Some people have put in city water, but they wanted the water,” she said. “I haven’t had any trouble with my well, so I’m not going to do anything about it.”

Giller receives sewer service from TriCo Regional Sewer Utility, which formed in 1975 to address groundwater problems in the Home Place area. Because she doesn’t have a water meter, Giller is charged a flat rate of $33.51 per month, no matter how many gallons she uses. As the only resident of her home, she has questioned why she is charged the same rate as a large family, which would be expected use the service much more.

“I just don’t think it’s a fair situation,” she said.

TriCo Utility Director Andrew Williams said the board has had discussions about how to handle unmetered users, and –although not a perfect solution – the flat rate makes the most sense.

“Without a meter we cannot know how much flow comes from a residence on a water well. When we looked at metered flows in one block of similar sized residential homes in Home Place, the flows ranged from 2,000 gallons per month to 11,000 gallons per month,” Williams said. “We had also discussed tracking how many residents were in a house, but this would still be just an estimate of flow and very intrusive to our customers.”

The flat rate is based on the industry standard of a household using 7,000 gallons per month. Williams said TriCo’s flat rate is one of the lowest in the area. As of July 2018 in Westfield, for example, he said customers without a meter paid more than $55, no matter how many gallons they used. Carmel Utilities customers pay a flat rate of $39.36.

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