City preps for water improvements

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A water tower on Greenfield’s west side will be retired after a planned new one is finished farther south.

Mitchell Kirk | Daily Reporter

GREENFIELD – The city is planning improvements to its water system, including a new water tower and new water lines on the south side.

The developments are needed to keep up with the city’s growth and equalize its water system. They’re estimated to cost at least $13 million, and a rate increase is expected to back the expense.

Charles Gill, Greenfield water utility manager, said the new water tower will be off Franklin Street’s west side between Tague Street and Davis Road, just south of Greenfield Hancock Animal Management’s new location. It will have a capacity of at least 1.5 million gallons. Gill noted there’s already water infrastructure in that area, recalling how the water utility extended a water main on Franklin Street during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need the additional storage because we’ve grown exponentially here lately, and it doesn’t seem like it’s slowing down too much,” Gill said.

Joanie Fitzwater, Greenfield planning director, reported at Tuesday night’s plan commission meeting that the city has issued nearly 500 residential building permits so far this year. More than 260 of those are for single-family homes, an amount that’s already surpassed last year’s total by over 40.

Also planned for Greenfield’s water system is a 12-inch main along Davis Road east of Franklin Street connecting to existing infrastructure. Then another 12-inch main will extend along Davis Road near Brandywine Park east to Morristown Pike, where it will continue north to The Ridges Over Brandywine, where residents can connect if they choose.

“This will allow us to equalize the system,” Gill said of the new mains. “That’s one of the main parts of why we’re doing this.”

Greenfield’s water system is currently split between two zones, he continued, with one plant controlling one and another plant controlling the other.

“As a water management strategy, it makes it very difficult, so our idea is once this is in place, we’re going to open up this system into one pressure zone,” he said. “So hopefully everything should equalize across the system, so everybody down south to up north – everybody will get the same pressure within maybe one or two PSI here or there.”

Another planned improvement is extra control systems for the water tower near Hancock Regional Hospital in order to get more capacity out of it.

“Right now we do the best we can, but we can’t use it to its fullest extent,” Gill said.

The city has two other water towers. One is north of New Road and east of Franklin Street on the north side. The other is near Weston Elementary School and St. Michael Catholic Church and School on the west side. Built in 1953, it was the city’s first water tower, and has a capacity of 500,000 gallons.

“The expected service life out of any water tower is probably 70 years at best,” Gill said. “…So it’s served its purpose.”

Once the new water tower is operational, the one on the west side will be retired and likely decommissioned and demolished, Gill said.

“This is kind of a short circuit in the system,” he said. “I can’t operate the system as we’d want to because of that tower. It limits me quite a bit, unfortunately.”

Gill gave a conservative estimate of $13 million for the improvements.

“We may be able to realize some cost savings once we get a little further into it, but it’s really resource-dependent right now,” he said. “…We’re at the mercy of forces beyond our control in a lot of ways.”

The city will apply for funding from Indiana’s State Revolving Fund Loan Program.

Greenfield’s water utility rates increased by about 4% on Jan. 1 of this year and are slated to do so again in 2023 and 2024.

The current monthly rate structure charges in-city customers $3.59 for their first 20,000 gallons, plus $13.34 for a ⅝-inch meter, $16.42 for a ¾-inch meter and $24.88 for a 1-inch meter, with rates continuing to rise for larger meters.

Gill said rates will need to rise again when funding gets locked in for the upcoming improvements. He added the city’s financial advisor will help officials determine exactly what that will look like.

Engineering plans for the improvements are underway, and Gill hopes to close on the funding by March 31, 2023. He expects construction to extend into 2024.

“This is just the first domino in a series of improvements we’re going to have to make to keep up with increasing demand commercially and residentially, but also to allow us to meet some of these newer standards that are coming out regulatory-wise,” he said.