SPICELAND—Interest rates are at historic lows. Water and electricity needs are reaching higher levels. The future of both utilities became present concerns at the July meeting of the Spiceland Town Council.

Council members decided to move forward on a study concerning water capacity here. They also agreed to consider a 50-50 partnership with Draper, Inc., one of the county’s largest employers, on a major electrical upgrade.

All seemed to agree the time for action is now.

“It’s an unbelievable time to borrow money,” said Dan Wright, a representative of FBPH, an engineering firm well-known in the area. “I’ve never seen it that low. All indications are the feds and state will be throwing money into infrastructure. If you’re going do something, probably now is a good time to take a look at it.”

Water

As the I-70 corridor grows and Draper Inc. continues building its business, water capacity rises on the concerns list.

Currently, Spiceland purchases some of its water from the city of New Castle. The question before council is should a higher volume be sought from its bigger neighbor? Or is there a way to find additional water in its midst and become more self-sufficient?

Wright, who not only works for FPBH, advised a planning document and preliminary engineering report would help Spiceland be in a position to obtain grant funds for such a major infrastructure project.

“We entered into a contract with Crothersville recently to study almost the exact same things you’re discussing here,” Wright said.

Cost of such a document would be as much as $30,000, but board member Scott Fitch said the investment would be well-worth it.

“I don’t know how long these interest rates are going to stay where they’re at,” Fitz said. “If we get an interest rate of 1.5 percent, we’re going to save the $30,000.”

Council member Pam Stigall, who brought the water issue to the forefront of discussion, said she’d like to see the item on the agenda for action at the August meeting. Utility Supt. Jeff Lane agreed time is of the essence.

“This is the first thing we have do,” Lane said.

Wright said the council could seek bids on the preliminary study.

“Just make sure your work is done to meet all funding capacities,” Wright said. “Typically, we write to USDA standards. They are the highest, that will allow you to seek funding from all other sources. We would do analysis of all funding options and play those out for you and how it will impact your rates.”

Town Council President Darrin Jacobs said he thought money was available to do the study. Wright said the work would take approximately six to seven months.

“We’ve always tried to move forward with replacing, fixing or upgrading our water system,” Jacobs said. “I think we’d like to be more self-sufficient. We could find water, but it wouldn’t meet our needs, This study will help us better determine what path is best for the town.”

Electricity

Draper Inc. helps power the local economy, providing approximately 700 high-paying jobs in its century-old business.

But power has become an issue for them.

“We’ve had several meetings with them and IMPA,” Lane said. “Their electrical infrastructure is not very good. They’re had several outages over the years. They’re ready to upgrade and they want to upgrade.”

Lane said a plan to help move power capacity from traditional means to underground cable might cost $250,000 over a four-or-five-year period, but would be well worth the investment.

“IMPA says we should help them,” Lane said. “I think it’s a good investment for Spiceland and a good investment for them. We could pay for bulk of it through our dedicated services account.”

Draper is the town’s largest electric customer.

Lane said when maintenance costs of the existing system is factored, the upgrade would be preventative in terms of fixing potential problems ahead.

“This discussion is about taking everything underground,” Lane said. “Right now we have 13 different meters. If we go underground, we’d have one.”

“You don’t have to worry about squirrels or birds that way,” town council member Taylor Smith said.

“It’s very early in this discussion,” Lane said. “I just want to put it in everybody’s minds.”

“If there’s something we can do (that) makes it more reliable for them, easier on us and doesn’t break the bank, we should consider it,” Jacobs said.

Other business

Lane reported street paving efforts were complete and striping has been done. “I think they all look very nice,” Council member Pam Stigall said.

Council members continued a discussion about “crack-sealing” on troublesome streets. Lane said he got one quote for $7,500. “For that, you get two 400-gallon crack-seal kettles,” Lane explained. “You get 15,000 to 20,000 square yards.”

Clerk-treasurer Dawn Mogg said a Keiser engineering report shows what streets need crack-sealed. “They do it as it gets colder out,” Lane said. Jacobs urged council members to consider the crack-sealing when it files again for community crossroads next spring, Darren said.