CLOVERDALE -- Things are tough all over city and town governments, but you'll have to excuse the members of the Cloverdale Town Council if they feel their job is tougher than most.
But an $8,600 per month shortfall in the sewer fund is tough for any municipality to swallow, much less one with a population just shy of 2,200.
The answers aren't easy, so they've occupied much of the council's time and energy recently, particularly at its Aug. 9 regular meeting and at upcoming utility board meeting on Monday, Aug. 29.
Solving a sewer shortfall could be as simple as raising rates, but councilors don't consider that a responsible solution. The town is already in the third phase of five in a water rate increase. Council President Cathy Tipton said a sewer rate increase was unacceptable.
"My charge to the board as well as myself was, 'how can we take care of this?' Folks have a hard enough time paying for water and sewer bills now. Asking them to pay additional because we have to raise their rates -- I just can't do that," Tipton said.
Instead, the town leaders have two options -- neither of which is simple. They can find new forms of income for the sewer fund and they can juggle their existing money to get the fund back in the black.
New income is the more interesting option, especially since the shortfall is the result of the loss of major customers such as Altra Biofuels and the Cloverdale Inn.
Indianapolis-based Active Environmental Services is currently performing the state-mandated cleanup at Gregg's Pit Stop Marathon at 1 S. Main St.
Active approached the council several months ago about disposing of water used at the site into Cloverdale's sanitary sewer.
"We bounced this idea back and forth two or three times. At first we were very much (against it), and then we did some additional research," Tipton said. "We hired Whitaker Engineering to come on board and help us understand and say if this is something that could be done and what advantages that could provide for us."
City officials discovered the water used is thoroughly cleaned and processed by Active Environmental before discharge. The company just needs somewhere to get rid of the water when it's no longer needed.
Additionally, because the cleanup is required by the state, even the town's engineering fees will be reimbursed.
"We asked (Whitaker Engineering) to come on board to see if it's even feasible. What I would like to see happen is if we can work out some type of agreement with Active Environmental and generate some revenue from that," Tipton said.
Such an agreement seems within reach. It's now a matter of what rate the town will charge Active. A meeting of the minds between Active, Whitaker and Clover-dale officials is needed.
These discussions are ongoing and will continue at the utility board meeting.
A temporary source of relief for the sewer fund could be more clerical in nature. At the council's recent meeting, they discussed shifting the sources of the salaries of positions such as clerk-treasurer, utility workers and the councilors themselves. The result would not be a change in pay scale, simply a change in the source of the money, with higher percentages coming from the water fund and the town's general fund.
Town Attorney Allan Yackey is to have the amended salary ordinance prepared for the council's review at the utility board meeting.
Discussed, but in less detail, has also been the possibility of the town seeking loans to help with the shortfall. The council appears to be exhausting all other options before taking on new debt.
The Cloverdale Town Council will meet as the utility board at 7 p.m., Monday, Aug. 29 at Cloverdale Town Hall.