The City of Madison means business and our business-minded approach to good government is leading the city to new heights. From investing in community safety, to expanding housing and economic opportunities, to improving our water infrastructure, the city is rapidly transforming toward a booming and bright future. As you see these investments being made, we hope you will feel as much a part of that progress as we do. We believe in the possibilities of what we can accomplish together.

At our core, we are data-driven problem-solvers and are committed to finding solutions for a wide array of problems. Effective solutions require planning, investment, and collaboration with other elected officials across the state and most importantly, here in our community.

All infrastructure has a defined useful life and eventually has to be replaced. When investment is delayed, the capital required to maintain systems is substantially higher and jeopardizes the safety, quality, and reliability of our delivery systems.

Rather than deferring these investments to a later date, we are addressing two major water initiatives simultaneously. The first is Clean Drinking Water and the second is Stormwater Management, particularly mitigating the impact from future flooding of the Crooked Creek Watershed. For now, I will focus on the clean drinking water initiative, how it must be funded, and the importance of collaboration across all levels of government.

The City of Madison’s water infrastructure is quite comprehensive with seven production wells, three treatment facilities, six storage tanks, five booster pump stations, and miles of water mains. Some of our infrastructure dates to the mid-19th century and most is nearly 75 years old. The last major investment in our water infrastructure was 20 years ago. The last rate change passed by the city council occurred 14 years ago in 2008. Amending user rates this infrequently creates significant vulnerability for the utility. The purchasing power of the rates are quickly eroded by inflation and the lack of capital prevents adequate investment for maintenance and future stability. Rest assured, our water is currently safe and tested daily, but we must make the investment now to keep it that way, just like any prudent business would do.

The City of Madison provides clean drinking water to approximately 75% of Jefferson County, nearly 20,000 residents. Among those approximately 12,500 water users live in the city. We pump, treat, store, and distribute approximately 800 million gallons of water a year to city customers and to three county water reseller utilities: Ryker’s Ridge, Dupont, and Canaan.

The City of Madison recently completed a comprehensive water infrastructure asset management plan and received recommendations from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Water Division. This study showed what we knew was likely. The lack of investment in upkeep of our system has led to aging infrastructure and we are losing millions of gallons of water a year due to leaking within our distribution system. In addition, we identified many areas in need of updating, including our storage tanks, treatment plant, pump stations, and 22,000 linear feet of water lines, much of which is currently undersized to provide adequate water and fire suppression. The estimated cost of addressing our critical clean drinking water needs is approximately $13 million.

Funding major capital expenditures is always challenging. Grants are only part of the equation. Rate distribution among users and debt are two of the most common ways cities address the maintenance of water systems. Federal funding and other sources can also provide relief, which we are pursuing. Over the past eight months, the City of Madison has been discussing this initiative with the County Commissioners and requested financial support which they are considering as part of their ARPA funded local plan. County support is reasonable because residents within the City of Madison are Jefferson County residents too. They pay city and county taxes and vote in both city and county elections for their representatives. Our water utility is not funded by tax dollars. It depends solely on user fees for its operations and capital planning.

It is true that our water users enjoy very affordable water rates. According to a statewide survey performed by a well-known accounting firm in Indiana, the average water customer in Indiana currently pays over $30 per month. Our current water rates are $7.11 per month for the typical household (excluding trash and sewer). Inflation has eroded not only the financial position of everyone in the community but also our water utility, causing a 33% decline in the economy of our current rates.

Unfortunately, the rate study and comprehensive water management plan completed by the city confirmed what we feared; the average household rates will need to increase in order to support the investment and to overcome the cumulative impact of inflation. We are working hard to minimize the impact on our water utility customers by pursuing grants, low-cost financing, efficiently managing the utility, and asking for support from the county commissioners. There is a cost to good government and good government is what we need right now and for the future. As your Mayor, I cannot delay decisions on this issue or any other problem we are dealing with like flooding and the poor condition of our parks, roads, and sidewalks or our lack of housing options. We must not delay these important investments for the safety and future of our citizens of Madison and Jefferson County.

You will hear more about this and other initiatives in the coming weeks and I ask for your support and involvement in making our community the best it can be. To learn more about our upcoming water project, you can find an outline on our website at www.madison-in.gov.

Sincerely,

Mayor Bob Courtney