Infrastructure improvements make way for growth

Published 2:05 am Saturday, May 27, 2017

LaGRANGE – The city of LaGrange is hoping that the old saying is true — to make money, you’ve got to spend money.

The city spent an estimated $1,100,000 on system additions to water and sewer systems during the 2016-2017 fiscal year. Two additions made up a large chunk of that cost. A total of $495,000 went toward the water line on Tom Hall Parkway beside Great Wolf Lodge and $304,000 was for the Sewon Blvd. extension for water distribution to Sentury Tire.

“What we are talking about is the infrastructure cost to deliver the water, the sewer, the electric services to these customers that will be customers of the city for years in the future, and so the money will all be recovered – in some cases pretty quickly – but that is just the investment that we have to make to get the services there to be able to supply that,” Mayor Jim Thornton said during the Tuesday budget meeting.

“It is costing us some money to run the sewer lines there and put in a pump station and some of that, but they will be paying for that back over time, and Sentury Tire… (will) be a big customer for the city.”

The service additions will have very different impacts on utility expansion in the future though due largely to their locations.

“With the Great Wolf project, we built a pumping station with a gravity line that will serve a fairly limited area in the Selig property, but on the Sentury Tire (addition), we’re putting in a very large sewer on the western side of the road that will ultimately be part of a master plan that can service thousands of acres in the future,” Public Services Director David Brown said.

That placement will make it easier to extend service on the Kia Motors Manufacturing side of the city for future industries. These additions come as several local plants have begun to cut back on water and sewer usage, which has had a major impact on city finances. The city takes in 73 percent of its revenue from utilities, which include water, sewage, electrical and gas services.

“Milliken, Live Oak, Kimberly Clark, Duracell and Sewon have been cutting back on their usage – conserving water and cutting sewer,” said Utilities Director Patrick Bowie. “Some of them have metered sewers, so they actually can cut back on just the sewage.”

Those businesses have cut back on both water and sewer costs by recycling water, but with new businesses scheduled to open during the next fiscal year, the city is hopeful revenue on water and sewer use will rise again.

The estimated water and sewer revenue for the 2017-2018 fiscal year budget is $16,750,499. In comparison, the 2016-2017 fiscal budget brought in $2,926,524 on water and sewer.

The LaGrange City Council is scheduled to meet again on June 13 at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Ave.