NORTH WEBSTER – Lakeland Regional Sewer District picked two contractors Thursday to begin negotiations with to oversee the system’s treatment plant and billing.
The district board voted first to contract with outside firms, rather than hiring their own employees, to operate the wastewater treatment plant and handle billing. Members agreed the district would take on less liability by using outside contractors, and heard that it would likely cost less than the estimated $570,000 to oversee employees directly.
Members voted to begin negotiations with Astbury Water Technology Inc. to operate the treatment plant, and with Jones Petrie Rafinski Corp. for billing. Board members meeting in committee in recent months had considered the two along with four other companies, scoring and interviewing each one and comparing cost estimates.
Astbury presented the lowest estimate at less than half the cost of the district hiring its own staff, and had the highest score. JPR also scored well and presented what the board considered a reasonable estimate on its fee for billing the expected 1,700 users.
Also Thursday, the board agreed that they cannot consider at this point changing district boundaries or including customers outside the district. Mark Dillon, who owns a bait shop just outside the district at Ind. 13 and CR 350N, had requested inclusion, but the board heard that the decision is up to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is providing funding for the project.
The USDA, which is currently reviewing project changes made since the last  preliminary engineering report it approved, has said it will not provide funding to install lines under Ind. 13. Board members were hesitant to delay the project further by pursuing boundary changes, though they did not rule out including outside users in the future.