City officials looking down barrel at very tough spot

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Our Views

By The Staff

Welcome to life on the Shepherdsville City Council. And, by the way, in your first six weeks in office, you have a multi-million dollar project to decide upon.

And, worse than that, the decision is worth a whole lot more than simply an expansion and upgrade of your sewer infrastructure.

For nearly a year, Shepherdsville officials have been talking with various entities.

Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont has its own package sewer treatment plant. Under the proposal, the company would give up its plant and hook up to the city’s expanded system.

Running a sewer line to the Highway 245 area opens up many acres for development. Also, the proposed community and technical college is slated to go on the northwest quadrant on Interstate 65.

A part of the deal would be to expand the existing sewer treatment plant.

Everything looked to be in line. The city had signed a memorandum of understanding with Jim Beam officials and securing over $18 million in bonds for the project was underway.

Unfortunately, the money coming into the city will not apparently pay for the annual debt service on the bond issue.

In the more immediate picture, the question on whether the entire project will be tossed in the toilet is at the forefront. City officials voted last week to discontinue pursuit of the project.

Unless the scope of the project could be downsized or unless some of the stimulus money could be appropriated, the project could be dead.

The city may be required to make improvements to the sewer plant, which is supposed to be running at nearly 90 percent capacity on dry days. This is a scenario encountered once before and one currently being faced by Mount Washington.

Next, the state will literally mandate rates to cover the expense.

From a bigger picture type of overview, the city’s decision to turn its back on the memorandum of understanding is more disconcerting.

The city itself has spent more than $1 million in engineering fees. Jim Beam has plans well in the works for the $15 million visitors center and other upgrades to its facility.

And it will make economic development a bit more difficult when those making deals with the city could possibly experience flashbacks and wonder if Shepherdsville will change its mind down the road.

City officials should not make their current customers pay for expanding its infrastructure. At the same time, customers are realistic enough to understand that rates won’t stay the same forever.

The city may have boxed itself into a corner that is hard to escape. Quick solutions are needed to see if a bad situation could be made a little better.