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RSD tables talks of buying land for regional plant

By J.C. Lyell, Staff Writer, [email protected]

Members of the Harrison County Regional Sewer District have tabled talks of possibly buying land for a regional wastewater treatment plant for now.

At the board’s September meeting, Bob Woosley, project engineer and president of Heritage Engineering, who serves as a consultant to the board, said he was approached by a group of property owners looking to sell a roughly seven-acre tract of land southeast of New Salisbury.

The sewer board’s interest in the property was as a possible site for a regional plant that could service future high-density developments in the New Salisbury area and beyond. Part of the land lies below the floodplain, meaning it could be good for a sewer plant but other kinds of developers might not find it suitable.

The board doesn’t have an immediate need for a regional plant, but board members said, at the right price, it might be a mistake to pass it up.

At the board’s October meeting Friday, however, Woosley said the sellers indicated that they would not accept an offer at the land’s appraised value. “(The asking price) is way above what we thought it was going to be,” Woosley said.

Being a government body, the board is bound by regulations that say for any purchase of land over $50,000, the property must be assessed by two appraisers, and the board cannot pay more than the average of their valuations.

“Your hands are tied,” Woosley said. “As a sewer board, you can only pay the appraised value.”

Some board members said they didn’t expect the value of the property to exceed the $50,000 threshold and, therefore, thought it might not need an appraisal. As a result, many were surprised the sellers signaled they wouldn’t accept an offer at appraised value even before an appraisal was arranged.

Board president Tom Tucker said the board and the property owners have different ideas about the value of the property, which will make it hard to come to an agreement.

“We’re going to be $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 apart,” Tucker said.

“At least that, yeah,” Woosley replied.

Tucker said there are other expenses associated with the land for board members to consider.

“It’s not just buying another piece of property,” he said.

Carving through the seven-acre tract are Big Indian Creek and one of its tributaries. This situation would be ideal for a regional sewer plant, which needs a stream in which to discharge treated water, but it would also complicate access to the property.

The sellers said they could grant an easement across an adjacent property they also own, but this would require building a bridge across one of the streams to access it.

The alternative to this would be for the board to negotiate an easement to allow access from S.R. 135 through another landowner’s property. Both options would come at a cost.

“They thought we would be the ones to set them on the right track (financially), and we may,” Tucker said, “but they have to do some thinking on that.”

With the discussion tabled, the board looked to Steve Tolliver, operator at Berkshire Wastewater Treatment Plant near New Salisbury, for his monthly report on the facility.

He said the plant’s annual state walk-through inspection took place in early October, and it was given a score of 5 out of 5.
“We passed with flying colors,” Tolliver said.

The board will soon finance a smoke test for the collection system at Berkshire Pointe Mobile Home Park, which has been a “hot spot” for the plant this year.

Woosley and Tolliver said the issue could be an uncapped valve or leaks somewhere in the collection system, but the test will make any faults apparent.

Woosley said he expects it to cost between $5,000 and $10,000, depending on the length of the system.

He is in the process of working with the park’s owners to create a more detailed map of the system than what was originally available.

The RSD board of directors will next meet Friday, Nov. 15, at 8:30 a.m. at the Harrison County Community Foundation building in Corydon.